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by Emma Foehringer Merchant
February 03, 2020

In his State of the State speech last week, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker gave renewables advocates something to rally behind.

This spring, the governor said, Illinois must focus on “the pressing issue of adopting new clean energy legislation that reduces carbon pollution, promotes renewable energy and accelerates electrification of our transportation sector.”

It’s a priority that helped Pritzker skate to the governorship in 2018.

Years before that election, Illinois laid out a path forward for renewables growth when legislators passed the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016. When the law went into effect in 2017, it required 4.3 gigawatts of new solar and wind by 2030, cleaned up the mechanism that collects money to develop renewables and created the state’s first community solar program.

Since 2016, the Illinois Solar Energy Association’s membership has quadrupled. Non-residential installations were slated to jump from about 16 megawatts in 2018 to 49 megawatts in 2019, before an even bigger climb to 144.7 megawatts this year, according to data from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Utility-scale installations, barely topping 3 megawatts in 2019, were expected to rise to 44 megawatts in 2020 before shooting to 163 megawatts in 2021. 

Despite the success, Pritzker’s assurance couldn’t come soon enough for developers and solar advocates. Though the Future Energy Jobs Act has fostered growth, its funding is all but dried up for some segments of the industry. Without more money to fund renewable energy credits, those markets — especially community solar — could skid to a stop.

“The renewable energy industry, which has been enjoying considerable growth, is due for a stall,” said Lesley McCain, executive director at the Illinois Solar Energy Association.