This is the second in a series of Quarles & Brady client alerts concerning the approximately 1,000-page Illinois omnibus energy legislation commonly referred to as The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). The first alert provided an overview of CEJA’s key measures and emphasized that its implementation will involve numerous regulatory proceedings, rulemakings, and working groups. This alert reports on initiatives undertaken by Illinois’ two principal energy-regulatory agencies -- the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) -- to commence that implementation process.
On September 15, 2021, Illinois Governor Pritzker signed CEJA into law. CEJA’s wide-ranging provisions touch nearly every aspect of state-level energy policymaking -- from the development of additional wind and solar facilities to public utility company ratemaking and operations, from emissions standards at coal- and gas-fired power plants to energy efficiency standards and goals, and a range of other topics. As noted in Quarles & Brady’s first CEJA alert, the legislation’s implementation will involve numerous regulatory proceedings, rulemakings, workshops, and working groups. These will occur before a number of forums, including the ICC and the IPA. There will also be CEJA-related activity at other agencies, including the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Illinois Commerce Commission Activity
The ICC has recognized that CEJA will require long-term, ongoing program administration, development, and oversight. Since CEJA’s passage, the ICC has taken the following initial actions to effectuate that mandate:
- Renewable Energy Access Plan: CEJA directs the ICC to adopt a Renewable Energy Access Plan. The Plan must designate renewable access zones throughout Illinois in areas that are well-suited for renewable energy facilities and propose how the electric output from facilities within those zones can be cost-effectively delivered to customers in Illinois and other states. The ICC has initiated a competitive selection process for the retention of technical and policy experts to support the creation of the Plan.
- Energy Storage: CEJA requires the ICC to develop a framework to identify and measure energy storage costs, benefits, and barriers, through engagement of a broad group of stakeholders including the energy storage industry, electric utilities, and renewables developers. The ICC has commenced informal workshops that will lead to formal regulatory proceedings on energy storage.
- Interconnection Working Group: CEJA instructs the ICC to form an Interconnection Working Group to address a set of interconnection-related topics, including the cost and best available technology for interconnection and metering, the transparency and accuracy of the interconnection queue, the predictability of the queue management process, and enforcement of timelines. The ICC has invited renewables developers, electric utilities, and distributed generation customers to participate in the Interconnection Working Group.
- Energy Efficiency Opt-Out: CEJA allows customers with high electricity usage to opt out of utility energy efficiency programs and develop their own plans instead. The ICC has prescribed an application for that opt-out process.
- Electric Vehicles: CEJA sets a goal of one million electric vehicles on Illinois roads by 2030, and finds that widespread adoption of electric vehicles is necessary to electrify the transportation sector, diversify the transportation fuel mix, drive economic development, and protect air quality. CEJA directs the ICC to hold a series of workshops on electric vehicle-related topics, including current barriers to mass-market adoption, incentives for medium-duty and heavy-duty fleet vehicle electrification, and geographic areas and market segments that should be prioritized for electrification infrastructure investment. The ICC has hired a facilitator for this series of “Beneficial Electrification” workshops, and the next workshop meeting is scheduled for December 15, 2021.
- Integrated Grid Plans: CEJA requires that Illinois’ largest electric utilities develop Integrated Grid Plans to support renewable generation and advance Illinois’ clean energy goals. The ICC is planning to hold workshops to review the utilities’ historic and planned capital investments in their distribution systems. The ICC has initiated a competitive selection process for a facilitator to lead the workshops.
Illinois Power Agency Activity
CEJA doubles Illinois’ investment in renewables by requiring the IPA to procure Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from solar and wind projects. In connection with that directive, the IPA has issued draft revisions to the standard form REC contract for the Adjustable Block Program (ABP), which applies to community solar and small and large distributed generation (DG) solar projects. With these draft revisions, the IPA is proposing to split the ABP REC contracts into two forms: the first applicable to 15-year REC contracts for small and large DG and “community-driven” community solar projects; and the second applicable to 20-year REC contracts for DG projects at public schools and community solar projects that are not community-driven.
The IPA has also issued a request for stakeholder feedback on various components of its Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, which covers utility-scale projects, the ABP, and the Illinois Solar for All Program applicable to low-income projects.
The Latest Information
The ICC, IPA, and other Illinois agencies are continuing to release information on their CEJA implementation efforts.