Illinois House of Representatives Considers Energy Bill That Would Spur Large-Scale Solar Growth

The Illinois House Public Utilities Committee approved an energy plan for Downstate Illinois that will deliver smart, consumer-friendly investments in the state’s energy infrastructure, help Illinois reach its clean energy goals, and create vital economic opportunities and good-paying jobs in central and southern Illinois. The Downstate Clean Energy Affordability Act (DCEAA, HB 1734) has more than 29 bi-partisan co-sponsors. Ameren Illinois is also supporting the bill.

“When it comes to energy policy, Illinois is not a one-size-fits-all state,” said State Representative Latoya Greenwood, chief House sponsor of HB 1734. “Illinois operates under two grid systems and the economics for the energy markets in Northern Illinois and Downstate Illinois are vastly different. The provisions in the DCEAA understand and respect this diversity and give Downstate customers the benefits of clean energy in a way that is fair, transparent and affordable.”

Greenwood highlighted three key pillars of the Downstate clean energy plan: increased production of affordable, renewable energy; incentives to jump-start the electric vehicle market; and solutions to maintain customer affordability in communities from Galesburg to East St. Louis to Carbondale.

“It is our job to make sure the people of Central and Southern Illinois are not left behind in the energy debate,” said Greenwood. “As these discussions evolve, we all need to understand that when we talk about energy policy, we’re talking about impacting every single resident, community, business owner – from our youngest citizen to our oldest. It matters to literally everybody.”

Greenwood introduced DCEAA in part because of concerns that other energy proposals would add nearly $20 billion to the energy bills of Downstate customers over the next 30 years.

“There are some acceptable provisions in these other plans, but the cost increases for Downstate customers make them a non-starter,” said Greenwood. “We can see the light ahead as we emerge from the pandemic and now is not the time to place an unnecessary financial burden on our working families.” Greenwood added that the DCEAA will deliver the benefits of clean energy for only a little more than $1 more per month on the typical customer bill.

Among the key provisions, HB 1734 calls for the construction of larger scale local solar facilities that will connect to the existing energy distribution infrastructure and will be built by union labor. It will also enable utilities to provide incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, build out the downstate vehicle charging corridor, and provide rebates for in-home charging. In addition, the legislation includes provisions that hold all energy players to strict diversity reporting requirements and ensures that prevailing wages are paid to those who are engaged in construction of renewable energy facilities.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition opposes this bill. The group says the bill “allows Ameren to fall short of electric reliability metrics for up to nine days per year, without penalty, through 2032,” and that it would raise Illinoisans’ electric bills and give Ameren bigger profits.

The Path to 100 Coalition also spoke out against HB 1734. Nakhia Crossley, spokesperson for the coalition, issued the following statement:

“Ameren’s proposal would destroy the competitive renewable energy market created by the Future Energy Jobs Act, which resulted in thousands of solar and wind jobs in every corner of the state. Instead, this bill would put renewable development at the mercy of monopoly utilities like Ameren that have fought renewable energy in this state for years. The bill denies downstate customers access to residential, commercial, and non-profit projects and directly undermines the goals of the state, Governor and General Assembly which have sought to create a thriving and competitive renewable energy market. Simply put, it is not in Illinois’ best interest to allow Ameren to deny consumers access to competitively built rooftop and community solar projects that provide bill savings and benefits to all, while allowing Ameren to own that development and raise consumer costs.”

Companion legislation sponsored by Senator Christopher Belt (SB 311) will be heard in the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee on Thursday, March 25.

“Representative Greenwood and I represent districts that have long been promised clean energy projects, but those promises have not been kept,” said Senator Belt. “We’re going to get these renewable energy assets built in the communities that need the economic jolt and do it while providing job opportunities for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. In other words, we will make sure that the people who are paying for clean energy get to build clean energy.”

HB 1734 now moves to the full Illinois House of Representatives for consideration and a vote on the floor.


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