Nearly a year ago, we celebrated the monumental passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in Illinois, the culmination of two years’ worth of work. The act strengthens the Illinois economy by taking important steps toward our state’s clean energy future.
We’re particularly excited about FEJA’s expansion of existing utility energy efficiency programs, its emphasis on community solar, and the job training provisions that ensure low-income and environmental justice communities will benefit. While there is always more that can be done, it’s one of the most significant energy laws to pass the Illinois General Assembly, and it positions Illinois as a prominent leader in environmental progress. It also demonstrates how states can be leaders amidst the current federal administration’s rollback of climate and public health protections.
But at a certain exciting point, celebration turns to focus. FEJA went into effect on June 17, 2017 and now we must plan for and implement the programs and projects in a way that brings real benefits and impact.
A Strong Foundation for Implementation
FEJA is special because of who it brought together. Elevate Energy is a member of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition that supported the compromise result, composed of Illinois businesses and organizations representing the state’s environmental, business, consumer advocate, and faith communities. The group brought diverse perspectives but coalesced around common goals of improving public health, helping consumers, bettering the environment, and creating tens of thousands of new clean jobs across the state. This shared vision empowered and mobilized the group, lending a sense of ownership to all that were involved and better ensuring FEJA’s long-term success.
One example we’re quite proud of is how the coalition continued to leverage its momentum, effective working dynamic, and expertise to provide recommendations on program design to the Illinois Power Agency (IPA). Elevate Energy is part of the Illinois Solar for All Working Group, a subset of members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, formed to make sure that practices and policies of FEJA would maximize benefits to economically disadvantaged communities. We were among more than 70 participants and experts on environmental justice and advocacy, energy efficiency, consumer protection, business, program design, and policy.
The Solar for All working group produced a key white paper that helped inform the IPA as it drafted the Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, which lays out how the state will pay for and structure the projects and programs under FEJA (the plan is currently available on the IPA website). Together, we agreed on program principles to ensure high-quality implementation that actually benefits those for whom the programs are intended to serve. The principles are:
- Affordability and accessibility
- Community engagement
- Sustainability and flexibility
- Compatibility and integration
Elevate Energy is part of other diverse working groups aiming to ensure a smooth and equitable transition to a clean energy economy. This includes the state’s utilities. For example, ComEd announced its job training implementation plan, a collaboration with six local nonprofit organizations to create a solar job training pipeline for people in traditionally underserved communities.
What should I do?
Of course, there is much more ahead. What can you do as FEJA comes to life? Check back here for details on new programs and ways you can participate. You can also track Illinois policy developments and sign up to receive action alerts at citizensutilityboard.org.