Creating a Stronger Solar for All Program in Illinois

Through state incentives, Illinois Solar for All (ILSFA) expands access to clean energy and removes financial barriers that have historically prevented too many Illinois residents from participating in the solar economy. 

As a facilitating member of the ILSFA Working Group, we recently had the opportunity to provide feedback to the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) on where the program has room for improvement. 

The working group’s highest priorities include: 

  • Stronger and more proactive stakeholder engagement. Currently, the program lacks opportunities to provide consistent and ongoing feedback. Transparent, two-way conversation is key to ensuring that all parties are aligned on goals and best practices. Rather than the formal stakeholder comment process currently in place, we propose monthly, discussion-based stakeholder meetings. Additionally, public reporting on metrics like length of application process and reasons for project failure can help to identify patterns and remove bottlenecks. 
  • Innovative financing and ownership structures. Ownership of a solar system provides the most opportunity for long-term wealth. The IPA should think creatively about out-of-the-box financing models that allow more Illinois residents to achieve solar ownership and energy sovereignty. 
  • Significant reform to the Low-Income Distributed Generation (LIDG) sub-program. The bottom line is that the program isn’t anywhere near its full potential. In the first three years, almost $17 million was left unclaimed — enough to provide free solar and significant energy bills savings to approximately 1,132 families. While there are many potential opportunities to increase program participation, the working group focused on the following: 
    • Increasing the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) price to help stimulate the market and to account for the higher upfront costs of program participation. 
    • Streamlining the income verification process by implementing automatic approvals for some households and simplified information collection for others. 
    • Simplifying project submission and approval. Vendors have provided feedback that the current project submission process and portal are difficult to use. Some have even cited frustration with the process as a reason for leaving the program. IPA should conduct ongoing review to feedback collection to make this process less burdensome.
    • Create a customer-centric onboarding portal to help potential ILSFA customers navigate the program and connect with companies offering solar savings.
    • Build additional connective tissue between the general market Adjustable Block Program and the Illinois Solar for All program. Customers that are income-eligible should be directed towards the ILSFA program and the higher savings it provides.
    • Create a new subprogram that focuses on multi-family buildings. These customers are currently lumped in with the 1-4 unit residential customers. They have unique needs and considerations and should be split out into a separate track.   

In addition to the priorities outlined above, we also provided feedback on issues like project selection, public education, and program requirements. You can read our full submission here. Now, the IPA will consider our feedback and release a new Long-Term Renewable Resource Procurement Plan by August 16. While much of this plan is a hypothetical exercise, given the incredibly harmful lack of incentive funding in most solar programs, the components of the plan that relate to the Illinois Solar for All program will have direct and precedent-setting consequences.

Solar energy has a critical role to play in Illinois’ equitable energy future. By creating the strongest ILSFA program possible, we can help more Illinois families reap the benefits and make our state’s clean energy future brighter, equitable, and inclusive. We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments to the IPA and are hopeful they’ll be taken under strong consideration.

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