Consumer Protection Initiatives Coming Soon​

Protecting consumers throughout their Program experience is a priority of the Agency and Program Administrator. 

The Program is developing updates in the 2024–25 Program Year to address consumer protection concerns following the ICC approval of the 2024 Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan. Timelines have not yet been established for implementation of these initiatives, but stakeholder input processes will be held in the coming months, and initial discussion on some topics has occurred in the Consumer Protection Working Group. Information about opportunities for stakeholder input and development of the following processes will be shared in program updates and located on this webpage. 

Click on each of the following initiatives to learn more.  

A suburban home with solar panels on the roof.

In some cases, Approved Vendors who promised to pass through some (or all) of the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) incentive payment to its customers, have not actually passed through that promised money. While the Agency can take disciplinary action against Approved Vendors who fail to comply with contractual requirements and marketing statements, the Agency is not a party to the REC Contract and generally has limited authority to interfere with the flow of incentive money for projects because the projects are under contract between the utility and the Approved Vendor. In the past, an Approved Vendor may have been suspended from the Program for not passing through promised REC incentives to their customers but still received REC incentive payments from the utility for projects under REC Contracts in the Program that predate the Approved Vendor’s suspension.   

The escrow process would allow the Program Administrator to direct the utilities to make the REC payment to a third-party entity (hired by the Program), rather than continuing to pay the offending Approved Vendor. The Program Administrator would then direct the third-party entity to pay relevant customers any REC payment amount previously promised by the Approved Vendor, and to pay the Approved Vendor any remainder of the REC payment. This process would be activated when there is a high likelihood that the Approved Vendor would not pass through promised REC incentive payments to customers. For example, this would be the case if the Approved Vendor has demonstrated a pattern and practice of not passing promised REC incentive payments through to customers. The process might also be used when an Approved Vendor files for bankruptcy.  

There is an increasing trend of customers becoming “stranded”—that is, the situation when a customer has already signed a contract with a solar company, and then the Approved Vendor (and sometimes also the Designee) goes out of business or is prevented from moving forward with the project for other reasons, such as disciplinary action. The stranded customer may be left without an Approved Vendor to advance their application through the Program’s application review process, or to pass through promised REC payments from the contracting utility.  

Customers can be stranded in different stages of their project’s development or application process. In many cases, it is difficult for a customer to find a new company to take on their project, especially if the project has been partially installed but not completed. In other situations, assisting a customer in moving a project forward is less complex, such as when the project is complete and operational, and the customer just needs a new Approved Vendor to submit project application materials (and potentially pass through part of the REC incentive payment). Even in this case, however, there may be additional hurdles, such as obtaining the correct application materials from a Designee that has dissolved its business or is unknown to the new Approved Vendor. Assisting stranded customers is often unattractive to Approved Vendors and Designees because the work and risk can outweigh the benefits.   

With the growing number of stranded customers, the Agency believes that an additional incentive is an important measure to encourage Approved Vendors to work with stranded customers, The Agency therefore will implement an economic incentive for Approved Vendors that assist stranded customers in the form of a “REC adder”— that is, an increased price in the REC Contract for RECs generated by projects that were stranded and then “unstranded.” 

Categories of Stranded Customers and Considerations for REC Adder Pricing – FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES ONLY – July 3, 2024

The Agency will also develop a solar restitution program to provide economic assistance to customers who have been harmed through their participation in Illinois Shines or Illinois Solar for All. While most customers have a positive experience in connection with the programs, there are unfortunately still some bad actors. The IPA has limited authority over companies operating in the solar market. Even when it comes to Approved Vendors and Designees participating in the IPA’s programs, the IPA cannot compel solar companies to take specific action to remedy harm to customers. While the Program Administrators can discipline Approved Vendors and Designees, up to and including suspension from the Program, the threat of discipline does not always lead Approved Vendors and Designees to make customers whole. This is especially true when the company is in financial distress.    

Customer Eligibility: Customers will be required to submit a complaint to the Program Administrator and cooperate with the normal complaint investigation procedure. At a minimum, the following determinations will be required for customer eligibility:  

  • The customer was financially harmed by an Approved Vendor’s or Designee’s violation of Program requirements; and  
  • There is no reasonable likelihood that the Approved Vendor or Designee will make the customer whole.  

 
Restitution payments will generally not be available to customers who are harmed by entities that are not registered Approved Vendors or Designees in the Illinois Shines or Illinois Solar for All programs, regardless of whether the entity’s marketing claims referenced the incentive programs.

Please note that there will be caps (maximum payment amounts) applied to individual restitution claims of $30,000 per solar project, and a total cumulative cap on claims based on conduct of a specific Approved Vendor of $200,000. More information on how the caps will be applied will be posted here once the process is finalized.

Additional Resources

Dear Illinois Shines stakeholders:

The Illinois Power Agency is requesting initial input on two topics through the below linked surveys.

Stranded Customer REC Pricing Adder
The first survey seeks feedback related to the development of the REC adder (an additional financial incentive added to a base REC price) for Approved Vendors who take on solar projects for stranded customers (customers whose original installer and/or Approved Vendor is no longer available). For more information on the REC adder, please see Section 9.4.2.1.1 of the 2024 Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan. The survey seeks information about companies’ experiences related to stranded customers, and feedback on the costs and risks associated with taking on stranded customers. The Agency encourages entities who both have and have not taken on stranded customers to complete this survey. Additional background information is provided in the survey and may be previewed at the Program website’s Consumer Protection Initiatives page in the REC Adder section.

Click here to take the survey on the stranded customer REC adder.

PLEASE COMPLETE THIS SURVEY BY JULY 24, 2024

Net Metering Changes Coming in 2025
The second survey seeks feedback to inform updates to Disclosure Forms in light of the changes in net metering policy coming in 2025. Beginning January 1, 2025, Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois will provide supply-only net metering, rather than full retail rate net metering, to new residential and small commercial net metering customers. This means that while the amount of electricity that a customer pulls from the grid and sends to the grid will be netted to calculate a net kWh usage to generate supply charges, these customers will pay delivery charges on the gross among of electricity pulled from the grid. Current Disclosure Forms estimate the value of electricity generated by residential and small commercial solar projects by assuming generation is valued at the utility’s retail rate for electricity. The Agency will need to use a different valuation for generation from DG projects that receive supply-only net metering. The survey seeks feedback on a proposal for estimating a $/kWh value for generation under supply-only net metering, as well as additional information related to this issue. Additional context is provided in the survey introduction.

Click here to take the survey on updating Disclosure Forms for supply-only net metering.

PLEASE COMPLETE THIS SURVEY BY JULY 24, 2024


 

While responses to both surveys are optional, feedback from stakeholders is incredibly important in informing the Agency’s development of the REC adder for taking on stranded customers and an updated approach to Disclosure Form estimates. Approved Vendors, Designees, Grassroots Educators, and other stakeholders have first-hand experience working in the Programs and/or working with customers, and the information and perspective this provides cannot be overstated. The Agency thanks stakeholders for taking the time to share their experience with us as we work to update and improve our solar Programs.

Thank you!    
Illinois Shines Program    
[email protected]