Path to 100: Industry leaders call for immediate legislative action to save renewable energy jobs
The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) announced the close of all state renewable energy incentives, effectively ending Illinois’ renewable energy program. The end of incentives will force thousands of layoffs at renewable energy businesses across the state as Illinois’ solar market dries up. The announcement also means that Illinois will fall far short of its policy requirement of 25% renewable energy by 2025 unless new legislation passes, industry leaders comprising the Path to 100 coalition said.
The program for residential solar in northern Illinois closed on December 15. The IPA announced the close of the solar program in central and southern Illinois on Dec. 4. Incentives for utility scale wind and solar, community solar, and commercial-scale solar were already exhausted before then.
The renewable energy program, which launched in late 2017, provided financial incentives to the owners of solar and wind energy systems and was the main driver behind the rapid growth in renewable energy jobs and installations in Illinois in recent years.
“Illinois had become a hub for clean energy businesses, but now all of that is at risk,” said state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago). “As we look to emerge from the depths of the pandemic, we must work urgently to save these jobs, properly fund clean energy programs and create growth.”
“Illinois’ clean energy boom is now officially bust. While renewable energy businesses have delivered jobs, savings and clean energy growth to Illinois, our legislators have allowed the state’s renewable energy program to die out,” said Lesley McCain, Executive Director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. “The General Assembly can fix this, and it needs to act now.”
Clean energy advocates have been warning for more than two years that the state’s clean energy program would run out of funding and now that day is here. Because of that, a coalition of renewable energy businesses introduced the Path to 100 Act in early 2019 to address the problem, but the bill has yet to be called for a vote.
“Illinois just lost a proven tool to create jobs and economic growth,” said Nakhia Morrissette, central region director for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “While Illinois delays, clean energy jobs and investment are moving to other states with more stable energy policies.”
When funded through the Future Energy Jobs Act, Illinois’ renewable energy program helped the state more than double its renewable energy installations in under three years and enabled homeowners, schools, and businesses in every part of the state to lock in long-term energy savings. Illinois was among the top states for solar job growth in 2018 and 2019 but lost an estimated 3,500 jobs in 2020 as incentives dried up for large scale and commercial renewable energy projects.
“For the past few years, independent solar businesses like mine have done our part to invest in Illinois, create good-paying jobs and move the state toward our clean energy goals. But the legislature has allowed this state’s program to go off the cliff,” said Lisa Albrecht, founder of All Bright Solar. “Now people are losing their jobs and billions of dollars in potential investment is moving to other states. It’s like having a lead in the fourth quarter and then forfeiting the game. This was avoidable and it needs to be fixed now.”
To date, Illinois has only reached 8% renewable energy generation despite statutory requirements to reach 25% by 2025. More than 1,000 solar projects that applied for state incentives have been “waitlisted” due to lack of funding for the program. As Illinois seeks to restore its economy from the ravages of the Coronavirus pandemic, these projects are shovel-ready and will move forward once legislation passes to restore renewable energy incentives.