As the General Assembly moves toward its May 31 adjournment with issues such as a state budget, graduated income tax, and the legalization of sports gambling and recreational marijuana still to be decided, an ambitious package of energy market reforms will likely have to wait until the fall veto session or later before moving forward.
The expected delay comes despite calls for urgency from activists and energy interests from coal to nuclear and renewables. The ultimate goal of the stakeholders involved is to merge several energy-related bills into a comprehensive reform package that drives renewable energy production in Illinois.
“There's a lot of shifting ground in the energy space right now in Illinois. But given all the complicated policy initiatives facing the Legislature right now, this session, I think it's fair to say energy related concerns have been relegated to the back burner for now,” state Sen. Bill Cunningham said earlier this month.
Cunningham, D-Chicago, is the chair of the Senate’s energy committee and sponsor of Senate Bill 1781, dubbed the “Path to 100” act, aimed at moving the state toward 100 percent renewable energy by expanding on Illinois’ 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act, or FEJA.
Proponents of Path to 100 say FEJA helped create 1,300 renewable energy jobs in Illinois in 2018 alone, but more than 800 solar projects have been waitlisted because of funding shortfalls facing the state’s renewable energy program.
The FEJA-spurred renewable projects received funding from a pool of money generated by a fee of about 2 percent on residential ratepayer bills that is collected and distributed by the Illinois Power Agency.
Cunningham said the Path to 100 legislation would increase that rate cap slightly to create more renewable energy credits and drive further investment in renewable projects – ultimately, according to Cunningham, creating ratepayer savings in the future by eliminating the need for ongoing purchase of raw materials.
“It's just a matter of balancing all those things out over a long-term energy policy in the state,” he said.
Cunningham said FEJA was aimed at getting Illinois to 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, but the state is at about 7 percent, and there’s not much room for growth without expanding the pool of renewable credits available.
Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, who is carrying the bill (House Bill 2966) in the House, said he is ready to move the legislation forward at any time, but in light of a long list of important legislation still to be