|Adjustable Block Program (Illinois Shines)
Information for this program is taken from the Illinois Shines Program Guidebook and the 2024 Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan
The Illinois Shines Program is a state-administered solar incentive program created to facilitate the development of new photovoltaic distributed generation and community solar projects through the issuance of renewable energy credit delivery contracts. At least 50% of Illinois's solar REC procurement target must be supplied through this program.
Illinois Shines contains six program categories: 1) Small DG (less than or equal to 25 kW); 2) Large DG (greater than 25 kW up to 5 MW); 3) Traditional Community Solar; 4) Public Schools; 5) Community-Driven Community Solar; and 6) Equity-Eligible Contractors.
Blocks available through the program have historically been divided between Group A (projects located in the service territories of Ameren Illinois, MidAmerican, Mt. Carmel Public Utility, and rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities located in MISO) and Group B (projects located in the service territories of ComEd, and rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities located in PJM). In the 2024 Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) has proposed eliminating the separate groups for the Small DG and Large DG program categories.
Blocks open at the start of each program year (June 1) and remain open until annual capacity is exhausted; projects that apply within a program year but when capacity is exhausted are placed on a waitlist.
Although Illinois Shines is a REC purchase program, capacity is allocated through MW rather than annual MWh delivered. The total annual capacity for the program was 667 MW in 2022-2023 and 2023-2024; the IPA has proposed to increase this to 800 MW for the 2024-2025 program year.
In December 2016 the Illinois General Assembly passed Public Act 99-0906, known as the Future Energy Jobs Act, which took effect on June 1, 2017. This statute required the development and ongoing operation of an “Adjustable Block” program. This program, also known as the Illinois Shines program, is intended to facilitate the development of new community solar and distributed photovoltaic generation projects, and must feature a “transparent schedule of prices and quantities” for RECs “to enable the photovoltaic market to scale up and for renewable energy credit prices to adjust at a predictable rate over time.” Public Act 99-0906 provided for three program categories, 1) Small Distributed Generation (behind the meter projects up to 10 kW AC); 2) Large Distributed Generation (behind the meter projects over 10 kW AC up to 2 MW AC); and 3) Community Solar.
Public Act 102-0662 (“P.A. 102-0662”), known as the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, became effective on September 15, 2021. This sweeping energy legislation amended the IPA Act as well as other Illinois laws that affect the Program and its requirements, thus significantly modifying the Illinois Shines program.
First, P.A. 102-0662 expanded the number of project categories in the Program from three to six. The three additional categories are: Community-Driven Community Solar, Public Schools, and the Equity Eligible Contractor category.
Additionally, P.A. 102-0662 provided that most projects that participate in the Program were now subject to requirements under the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act. This means individuals engaged in the construction of applicable projects submitted to the Program must be paid the relevant prevailing wage. Prevailing wage is a minimum compensation level set by the Illinois Department of Labor (“IDOL”) by county for construction activities related to public works.
P.A. 102-0662 introduced new equity provisions for the Program. This statute introduced the concept of an Equity Eligible Person, an Equity Eligible Contractor, and the Minimum Equity Standard, all under an umbrella called the Equity Accountability System. The Minimum Equity Standard (“MES”) requires that starting June 1, 2023, 10% of the workforce on projects developed for the Program be made up of equity eligible persons, with an increase of this percentage to 30% by 2030. All participants in the Program must comply with the MES on an annual basis.
Additionally, P.A. 102-0662 shifted the Program away from a cascading block program to an annual block program. Annual blocks of capacity are released for the Program each year on the first day of the Program year, which aligns with the Delivery year. As such, Program years span from June 1st through May 31st of the following calendar year. Once annual blocks of capacity are full, new capacity is not released until the subsequent Program year.
P.A. 102-0662 also requires the Agency to “collect data from program applicants in order to track and improve equitable distribution of benefits across Illinois communities for all procurements the Agency conducts.” The IPA specifically requires the Agency to collect certain information, including but not limited to the racial or ethnic identities and geographic residencies of employees and agents of Program applicants and participants.
The Agency has determined that a two-part data collection process will be utilized to collect demographic and geographic information required under the Act; that is, information will be collected both through project applications and through the annual report submitted by Approved Vendors. In order to facilitate the ongoing tracking and collection of information from Approved Vendors’ employees and subcontractors, the Part II application will now collect information on the race, gender, and residential ZIP code of all employees or employees of subcontractors involved in the construction/installation of a particular project and the approximate hours worked. Approved Vendors will also be required to indicate whether any of the workers involved in the construction/installation of the project are graduates from the Solar Training Pipeline Program, Craft Apprentice Program, Multi-Cultural Job Training Program, or another job training program. As additional workforce development programs established by Public Act 102-0662 come online, they will be added to the options available for selection.