Thanks to the passage of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) on September 15, 2021, more energy consumers across the state of Illinois can now access the benefits of solar energy without having to install panels at their own properties. The CEJA has further opened up the community solar market in IL, following on from the passage of the Future Energy Jobs (FEJA) back in 2016. Now, more and more community solar projects are popping up across the state, offering utility bill savings to a wider range of customers via the community solar model.
What is Illinois Community Solar?
With the community solar model, a broader range of Illinois residents can receive the benefits of going solar without installing solar panels on their homes. Even if you live in a rented apartment, or your roof doesn’t receive enough sunlight, you can subscribe to a community solar project and receive credits on your utility bill. Thanks to the passage of the CEJA, 250 MW of new community solar projects have been approved for Illinois—a level of deployment that will allow approximately 35,000 families to receive the benefits of solar without having to install panels.
How Does Community Solar Work in Illinois?
A community solar project is a shared solar project which is open to multiple subscribers. In Illinois, each subscriber enters into an agreement which helps to fund a community solar installation somewhere in their utility’s service territory. Each subscriber then receives credits on their energy bill which are proportional to their share of the energy generated by the community solar garden. The owner of the community solar garden pays for construction, maintenance, and interconnection of the project—and the subscribers pay for their portion of the energy generated by the project. The owner reports the output of each solar subscription to the utility company, and then the utility company adds the appropriate amount in energy credits to the subscriber’s electric bill.
How Much Can You Save With Illinois Community Solar?
The Illinois Citizens Utility Board offers the following example to illustrate how community solar works and how it impacts your electric bill:
“Let’s say your home uses 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in a month, and your portion of the solar garden you subscribe to produces 950 kWh in that same month. You would receive a credit on your bill amounting to your supply rate multiplied by 950 kWh, meaning that month you would only need to pay for the remaining 50 kWh.
Then you receive a separate bill from your community solar provider for that 950 kWh generated by your subscription. Currently, all community solar companies in Illinois offer savings by charging you lower than what you would have paid ComEd or Ameren.”
What to ask Before Signing up for Community Solar?
All community solar contracts are signed off on by the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Power Agency, ensuring that there are some consumer protections in place. However, some offers may be better than others and so there are certain questions that you should ask when inquiring about a community solar subscription, such as:
What is the length of the contract with the community solar provider?
Is there a cancellation fee for exiting the contract early?
What is the payment method for the community solar subscription?
If it is kilowatt per hour (kWh), what is the rate?
Can that rate increase over time?
Is a credit check required?
What is the billing method, electronic or paper?
What is the payment method?
Can the consumer choose the method of payment?
Are automatic payments required?
How much will you save?
Thus far, it is estimated that consumers will save between 10% and 20% on the electricity produced through their community solar subscription. Keep these figures in mind when considering a subscription.
What is the Legislation for Community Solar in Illinois?
As noted in the opening paragraph, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) is a significant piece of legislation that has set Illinois on the path to 100% clean energy by 2050. Community solar will, of course, play a big part in making this target a reality, with notable features of the CEJA including:
Immediate allocation of funding for 250 MW of community solar projects from the waitlist to be constructed in 2022.
Further funding to support another 150 MW of community solar projects per year henceforth.
Increased access to the benefits of community solar for thousands more residents and businesses throughout Illinois.
Illinois Community Solar Progress
A recent survey of solar businesses in Illinois has shed some light on the progress of community solar in the state so far:
Over 2,000 rooftop and community solar projects have been installed so far, generating enough electricity to power over 30,000 homes.
It is projected that Illinois businesses will complete more than 8,400 rooftop and community solar projects by the end of the year.
Rapid hiring by businesses means that the workforce in the state is expected to expand by 47% by the end of 2022.
Does ComEd Offer Community Solar in Illinois?
ComEd has pledged its support for community solar, seeing it as an opportunity for a wider range of customers to receive the benefits of solar energy. The community solar model expands access to solar power, offering an alternative route to solar savings for those who rent, or who are unable to install solar panels at their property due shading, financial constraints, or any other reason. On the ComEd website you can learn more about how community solar works in the state, and also get an idea of your potential savings with ComEd’s Community Solar Calculator.
Are you interested in community solar? Reach out to YSG Solar today. YSG will identify the ideal community solar project for your needs, guiding you through the entire subscription process from start to finish to ensure the biggest savings on your utility bill. To learn how much you could save by signing up for community solar, call the office at 212.389.9215 or send us an email.
YSG Solar is a project development company responsible for commoditizing energy infrastructure projects. We work with long-term owners and operators to provide clean energy assets with stable, predictable cash flows. YSG's market focus is distributed generation and utility-scale projects located within North America.