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General Questions

Why is my ABP project application on the waitlist?

As of December 2020, Program capacity for distributed generation project applications has been filled and new project applications submitted to the Program are being added to a waitlist.

Project applications are selected from the top of the waitlist as projects ahead of them in the relevant Group (A or B) and category (Large DG, Small DG, or Community Solar) that have been allocated to a capacity block are withdrawn. A project will be selected from the waitlist after project(s) of the same or greater size ahead of it have withdrawn. A project application will be reviewed for compliance with program requirements only after it has been selected from the waitlist.  Because the rate of withdrawals is unknown, it is not possible to determine if or when a project may be selected from the waitlist and thus be considered for an incentive through the Program.

The opening of additional space in the Program to support additional project applications requires the authorization of additional funding through legislation from the Illinois General Assembly. At this time, there is no schedule for by when this may happen.

Waitlists can be viewed on the ABP dashboard for Small DGLarge DG, and Community Solar.

How do I participate in Illinois Shines?

There are two ways you can participate in Illinois Shines:

  • You may host a new solar photovoltaic system on your rooftop or on your property, directly offsetting your energy usage; or
  • You may participate as a subscriber to a community solar project—a large, centralized solar project for which you “subscribe” to a share of its output.

When can I apply for the program?

All applications will need to be submitted through an Approved Vendor. The Program opened for applications on January 30, 2019.

All Distributed Generation Groups/categories are currently filled (though still accepting new project applications, and subject to waitlists. Please find the current status of each Group/category on the Adjustable Block Program Block Capacity Dashboard page.

Subscriptions to Community Solar projects may be available.

Can I submit an application for a project on my home/small business system to the Program myself?

  • All applications will have to be submitted by an Approved Vendor.
  • For small systems that have already been built (and energized after June 1, 2017), if your installer does not become an Approved Vendor, or work with an Approved Vendor, you will need to choose an Approved Vendor from the Approved Vendor list to apply on your behalf. Each Approved Vendor may offer you different terms and you should review multiple offers and choose carefully.
  • Systems will have to comply with all Program terms and conditions, which may require retroactive adjustments to the system or agreements with the installer. Systems in the Adjustable Block Program must have been installed by an individual who is a “Qualified Person” as defined in Section 16-128A of the Illinois Public Utilities Act and Title 83, Part 468 of the Illinois Administrative Code.

Am I required to participate in Illinois Shines if I want to install a new solar photovoltaic system on my property?

No, you are not required to participate in the Program.  You can indicate to your installer that you do not wish to participate in Illinois Shines; additionally, if you want to keep the RECs from your PV system or sell them outside the Illinois Shines program, you can seek to negotiate that with your installer.  However, the funding available through Illinois Shines is likely to make a system installed under the umbrella of the Program more affordable than if not.

I live in a rural electric cooperative, municipal electric utility, or the Mt. Carmel Public Utility Company territory. Am I eligible to participate in the Illinois Shines?

Projects located in a rural electric cooperative, municipal electric utility, or the Mt. Carmel Public Utility Company territory are permitted to participate in the Program. For more information on this you can click here

Will the Illinois Shines program continue in subsequent years? (i.e. 2021 and 2022)

Section 1-75(c)(1)(C) of the Illinois Power Agency Act calls for at least 1,000,000 RECs annually from the Adjustable Block Program by the end of the 2020-2021 delivery year, then a cumulative 1,500,000 RECs annually from ABP by the end of 2025-2026, then a cumulative 2,000,000 RECs annually by end of 2030-2031. The goal for the 2020-2021 delivery year has been met and all current blocks of capacity for the program have been filled as of December 2020, with new project applications being put on a waitlist. At this time there is not a schedule for the opening of future blocks of capacity. As outlined extensively in Chapter 3 of the IPA’s Revised Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, obtaining RPS funding necessary for opening additional blocks in 2021 would require passing new legislation.

Is the value of net metering changing in Illinois?

Retail rate net metering – described in more detail below – is still being offered to residential and small commercial customers of Ameren Illinois (“Ameren”), Commonwealth Edison (“ComEd”), and MidAmerican Energy Company (“MEC”) that install a distributed generation system.  It is anticipated that the replacement of retail rate net metering with a distributed generation rebate will be triggered under current Illinois law in the Ameren territory in late 2022 or early 2023, and likely later in the ComEd and MidAmerican territories.  The mechanism which will trigger the switch from retail rate net metering to a distributed generation rebate, and the process for calculation of that rebate value, is described further below.   Customers of rural electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities should check with those entities to determine whether net metering is offered in the service area.

Background

Under current Illinois law, net metering is available to any retail customer that “owns or operates solar, wind, or other eligible renewable energy generating facility with a rated capacity of not more than 2,000 kilowatts that is located on the customer’s premises and is intended primarily to offset the customer’s own electrical requirements.”  220 ILCS 5/16-107.5.  Small customers, such as homeowners and small business owners, may receive a one-for-one kWh credit for the net electricity supplied to their utility at the retail rate – that is, for both distribution and supply charges. This is known as “retail rate net metering.”  Non-residential customers, as well as owners and developers of community renewable generation projects, have the option to apply for a rebate equal to $250 per kilowatt of the nameplate capacity of the solar project; these customers are not eligible to receive retail rate net metering and instead only receive net metering credits for the energy supplied from their system to the utility.  The net metering landscape in a utility’s territory will change and retail rate net metering will no longer be available to new net metering customers once the installed net metering capacity in that utility’s territory reaches 5% of the total peak demand supplied by that utility provider in the previous year.  Instead, those customers who install a distributed generation system after that point in time would be eligible for net metering of energy supplied to the utility and to apply for the distributed generation rebate, the value for which is to be set by the Illinois Commerce Commission (“Commission”) (the State agency charged with approving utility rates) through “an investigation into an annual process and formula for calculating the value of rebates.”  220 ILCS 5/16/107.6(e).  The investigations are conducted separately by utility.

Ameren Illinois

In April 2020, upon notification from Ameren that it had reached a 3% net metering penetration, the Commission opened an investigation into the value of successor rebates for distributed generation systems in the Ameren service territory, which remains open and is ongoing.  Additional information related to that proceeding may be found at:   https://www.icc.illinois.gov/docket/P2020-0738.

Ameren Illinois notified the Illinois Commerce Commission that it reached the 5% net metering threshold on October 2, 2020.  The Commission, which has exclusive jurisdiction over the matter of utility net metering, opened an investigation into Ameren’s net metering tariff (Rider NM) to determine whether Ameren had indeed met the 5% threshold as defined under Illinois law.  The Commission found that Ameren’s Rider NM incorrectly calculated the threshold and that the volume of installed net metering capacity in the Ameren service territory has not yet met the 5% threshold.  The effect of that ruling was to restore the availability of retail rate net metering for otherwise-eligible new Ameren Illinois net metering customers.  Pursuant to the Commission’s order, Ameren filed updated tariff language reflecting changes to how Ameren calculates the 5% net metering threshold on December 23, 2020, with an effective date of seven business days later.  Furthermore, the Commission ordered that Ameren compensate any customers who became net metering customers between October 2, 2020, and the effective date of the revisions to Rider NM for the delivery netting credits those customers should have received during that time.  Ameren estimates that it will reach the 5% net metering penetration under the Commission’s interpretation of the Public Utilities Act in late 2022 or early 2023.

Commonwealth Edison

In March 2021, upon notification from ComEd that it had reached a 3% net metering penetration, the Commission opened an investigation into ComEd’s net metering tariff (Rider POGNM) and its community solar tariff (Rider POGCS) to determine whether the tariffs correctly implement section 16-107.5(j) of the Public Utilities Act, which outlines the calculation of the 5% net metering threshold.  In response to an inquiry from the Commission, ComEd confirmed that under the Commission’s interpretation of the Public Utilities Act as applied in the investigation into Ameren’s net metering tariff, the net metering penetration in its service territory as of March 1, 2021, was only 1.48%.  The Commission’s investigation of ComEd’s tariffs is ongoing; related documents may be found at:   https://www.icc.illinois.gov/docket/P2021-0196/documents.

Does my system produce electricity in winter months?

Yes, solar systems still produce electricity in the winter months, but production could be significantly lower due to winter’s shorter days, the lower angle of the sun in winter, and snowfall that may occasionally cover your panels.

If your solar system was designed to offset all of your annual electricity usage, it was likely designed to produce excess electricity in summer months, which can balance out lower production experienced in winter months. Under the Illinois Public Utilities Act (Sec. 5/16-107.5. Net electricity metering), utilities must allow unused net metering credits (from high production months during spring and summer) to carry forward and offset subsequent electricity usage until the end of your annual period (which you can choose to be either the end of April or October each year).

After the annual period closes, these credits expire and can no longer be used toward your electricity bill. If you install solar in the fall or winter, your system has not yet had a chance to generate excess credits during high production months. This could result in your electricity bill not decreasing significantly since the installation occurred during lower production months. At this point in the year when lower production occurs, your system’s production might be simply meeting the needs of your home/property thus not generating any excess power just yet.

Please note that if you are not a customer of ComEd, Ameren, or MidAmerican, excess net metering credits may or may not carry forward. Additionally, keep in mind that the carrying forward of net metering credits only applies to specific rate classes, which can vary depending on utility. Please check with your electric utility to learn more about its specific metering policy.

If you believe that your system is underperforming, please contact your Installer for more information. If you have questions about your Illinois Shines application, please contact your approved vendor.

For more information about net metering, please click on the following ComEd, Ameren, and MidAmerican links.

Payments/Rebates

When will I learn if the on-site PV system I have contracted for has been selected for Illinois Shines funding?

In most cases, your Approved Vendor will apply to the Illinois Shines program for REC funding soon after you sign the contract, and a decision on the project’s application will be made a few weeks after that. Your Approved Vendor should be able to keep you updated on the status of your application and you may view the status of your application by using the project status tool.

Please note that Program capacity for project applications has been filled. Distributed Generation and Community Solar project applications submitted to the Adjustable Block Program are now being added to waitlists for the applicable project category. Subscriptions to Community Solar projects may be available.

What determines how much REC payment the Approved Vendor receives for my on-site PV system?

When applying to Illinois Shines for REC funding, the Approved Vendor will submit a production estimate based on your system’s size and specifications (to be approved by the Program Administrator), and the 15-year REC payment will be based on this amount. Feel free to discuss this before signing a contract with your Approved Vendor.

What are the financing and ownership options when installing solar?

The most common options are 1) buying the system, 2) leasing the system, or 3) signing a Power Purchase Agreement (“PPA”). If you lease or sign a PPA, you don’t own the system, but you get many of the benefits. For more information visit the CESA website. When deciding on the best option for you, consider:

  • If you’re buying the system, how much will it cost? Will you take out a loan to pay for it? How do the loan payments compare to projected reductions in your monthly electric bill?
  • If you’re leasing, how much is your monthly lease payment? How does that compare to projected reductions in your monthly electric bill? Do you have to put money down at the start?
  • If you’re signing a PPA, how much is the per kilowatt hour price for the energy produced? How does that compare to your current electricity rate? Do you have to put money down at the start?
  • Does your lease or PPA include an escalation clause that increases the amount of payments over time? If so, by how much do payments increase?

How will billing work for my ongoing lease or power purchase agreement payments for an on-site system, or community solar subscription payments?

Billing and payments will be handled between you and your solar provider; it will not be through your regular electric utility bill. Net metering credits, however, will be credited on your utility bill.

How do I get the smart inverter rebate that I’ve heard about?

If you are in the service territory of ComEd or Ameren Illinois, and if you are a non-residential customer who installs an on-site PV system with a smart inverter, you can receive a one-time rebate payment of $250 per kilowatt DC from the utility.  You can find resources to learn more about application procedures for the rebate from ComEd or Ameren Illinois . This rebate payment is separate from REC payments under Illinois Shines, or net metering credits.

Please note that receiving a smart inverter rate may impact how you are credited for net metering. You should review the terms and conditions of the rebate carefully to decide if it right for your business.

If I get solar panels, am I guaranteed to save money?

You are not guaranteed to save money unless your contract includes an explicit guarantee. The questions below will affect whether you save money. You can answer some questions yourself, while others can be answered by your installer or sales agent.

  • What per kilowatt-hour rate are you currently paying for electricity? The higher the electricity rate before you go solar, the more money you can potentially save.
  • Is your roof suitable for solar panels? The direction your roof faces and how much shade it gets will affect how much electricity roof mounted PV will generate. The roof’s condition should also be considered.
  • How much electricity will the system generate? If your system produces more electricity than you use over an annual period, you may not receive credit for all the electricity generated.
  • How much money will you receive for RECs? The Approved Vendor will be paid by a utility for your system’s RECs and may use some of that money to reduce your cost of going solar.
  • Can you use the federal Investment Tax Credit? If you buy your system, you may qualify for a substantial federal income tax credit. Consult your tax adviser.
  • How long do you expect to stay in your home or business location? If you lease or sign a PPA, you may be required to buy out the contract if you move. Read your contract to find out what happens if you move.

Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)

What are RECs?

RECs represent the environmental value of the electricity generated from solar panels, but not the electricity itself. Whoever owns the RECs has the right to say they used that solar power. Utilities must purchase RECs to meet their obligation to supply a certain amount of power from renewable energy. RECs can also be valuable to businesses seeking to be able to say that they use solar power. A home PV system might generate 50-200 RECs over 15 years. By participating in Illinois Shines, you will transfer the RECs from your PV system to an Illinois electric utility. Selling your RECs will not affect your PV system’s production or your net metering credits. For more information on RECs, see a video at https://vimeo.com/113250210

Do I have to allow the RECs produced by my solar PV system to be sold in order to go solar?

Although you can keep your RECs or sell them to someone besides utilities, participating in Illinois Shines and thus allowing your RECs to be sold to a utility is likely to be your best financial option. Selling your RECs through this Program will make it more likely that your PV system will save you money.

Do I need to worry about how the REC purchase transaction works?

Generally, the REC transfer will happen automatically and your Approved Vendor will take care of the details between it and the utility that purchases the RECs. The REC payments may affect the economic terms of your installation transaction, however; you should discuss that with your installer and/or Approved Vendor. As always, feel free to shop around and consider carefully among installers and/or Approved Vendors before making a final decision.

Where do the funds to pay for RECs through Illinois Shines come from?

By state law, the funds come from the ratepayers of large electric utilities in Illinois. Every utility customer contributes funds through a dedicated rider for renewable energy resources on their monthly electric bill.  A utility will use these funds to purchase RECs from your Approved Vendor.

What happens if my on-site system produces more or less electricity than the REC Contract (between the Approved Vendor and utility) calls for?

If the system produces more than contracted under the REC Contract, the Approved Vendor gets no extra REC payments. If the system is producing less than contracted under the REC Contract, the Approved Vendor might be required to give some portion of REC payments back; check your agreement to understand if that has any implications for you.

System Engineering

Is my roof adequate for installing solar panels?

Factors determining the adequacy of your roof include its physical condition; the direction it faces; its angle; and any obstructions that cause shade to fall on the system, such as nearby trees.  Potential installers can help investigate these issues and advise you on whether solar makes sense for you.

What approvals do I need for installing my system?

A basic list of approvals is as follows:

  • Before installation, you will probably need to get a permit from your local municipality. Talk to your local municipal government (or your installer may do this on your behalf).
  • After installation, you will probably need an official from your local municipality to inspect and approve the work.
  • You will need to apply to interconnect the system to your electric utility’s distribution system (or your installer may do this on your behalf). Information about that process can be found here.
  • In order to receive the full economic benefit of your PV system, you will need to apply to your electric utility or to your alternative retail electric supplier (if you have one) to enroll in net metering. Information about net metering and the application process can be found here.

What is net metering and how do I enroll with my utility?

Net metering measures the electricity your PV system produces and credits you for it on your electric bill. If you buy electricity from your utility (e.g., basic service or hourly pricing), you must contact the utility to enroll in net metering. If you buy electricity from a Retail Electric Supplier (e.g., through municipal aggregation or an individual contract), you must contact the supplier to enroll in net metering. If you later change your electricity supplier, you will need to re-enroll in net metering with your new supplier. Failure to enroll or re-enroll may significantly impact the value you receive from your PV system.

Approved Vendors and Installers

Do solar installers need to be certified in Illinois?

Yes, there are two requirements for distributed generation installation in Illinois. The first is a company level requirement that Distributed Generation Installers be certified by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). Details of this requirement can be found at the ICC’s Distributed Installers page. A list of Certified Distributed Generation Installers can be found here. Any questions about this requirement should be directed to the ICC which oversees this program.

Additionally, installation of a solar photovoltaic system, if it will seek a REC contract under the Adjustable Block Program, must be done by a Qualified Person as defined under 83 Ill. Adm. Code § 468.20, which covers the qualifications required of the individuals who are actually installing the system.

Can I self-install my system?

A system applying for the Adjustable Block Program can only be self-installed if the individual installing the system is a Qualified Person which is defined under 83 Ill. Adm. Code § 468.20 as:

“Qualified person” means a person who performs installations on behalf of the certificate holder and who has either satisfactorily completed at least five installations of a specific distributed generation technology or has completed at least one of the following programs requiring lab or field work and received a certification of satisfactory completion: an apprenticeship as a journeyman electrician from a DOL registered electrical apprenticeship and training program; a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) distributed generation technology certification program; an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) distributed generation technology certification program; an Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) distributed generation technology certification program; or an Associate in Applied Science degree from an Illinois Community College Board approved community college program in solar generation technology.

Please see Section 4(D) of the Program GuidebookProgram Guidebook for the full requirements to install a Distributed Generation System.

Can I switch Approved Vendors after my distributed generation project on my home or building is accepted to the Adjustable Block Program?

Another Approved Vendor could obtain the rights to your project’s Adjustable Block Program REC contract, but only with the consent of your original Approved Vendor. See Section 6.7 of the Revised Approved Plan.

Is the Approved Vendor the same as my installer?

Some Approved Vendors are installers, but some Approved Vendors are aggregators who manage RECs, or have a different business model. However, every Illinois Shines PV system will ultimately have an Approved Vendor associated with it, even if you only deal with an installer.  The Illinois Shines disclosure form that your installer provides to you will name the Approved Vendor.  The Approved Vendor is ultimately responsible for ensuring that consumer protections are met and that RECs from your system are delivered.

How does an Approved Vendor become “Approved”?

The Program Administrator of Illinois Shines, acting on behalf of the Illinois Power Agency, has an application process in which a vendor can submit information about its business in order to become “Approved” if it meets Program qualifications and requirements.

How do I find a reputable installer?

Installers for Illinois Shines include Approved Vendors and their Installer Designees. You can contact the installers directly; if an Approved Vendor is not an installer, they may be able to refer you to an Installer Designee acting on their behalf.  You should shop around, get a few quotes, read consumer reviews if available, and consider the transaction carefully before entering into any installation contract.

Community Solar

How do I find a community solar project to participate in?

A list of community solar projects that have opted to be listed publicly is posted on the Illinois Shines website. Please keep in mind that projects that are in development and have not yet applied to and been approved by the Adjustable Block Program will not appear on the list. Also keep in mind that some of the projects here may already be fully subscribed. This list will be updated as projects opt to be added.

If I subscribe to a community solar project, what exactly am I getting in exchange for my subscription payments?

  • You must first enroll in virtual net metering in relation to your subscription share of the community solar system. (Your community solar provider will facilitate that enrollment for you.) Under virtual net metering, if you are subscribed to 1% of a community solar system, you will be credited on your monthly utility bill for 1% of a recent month’s production (in kilowatt-hours) from the community solar system.  Production will fluctuate slightly from month to month and seasonally.
  • The monetary value of this net metering credit is based on the energy supply charge that you regularly pay – either a default supply rate to your utility or a custom supply rate that you pay to an alternative retail electric supplier. In other words, the credit equals the recent month’s community solar production share in kilowatt-hours, multiplied by the energy supply rate.
  • In addition to the monetary value of net metering, you are getting the knowledge that you are contributing to the development of new solar power generation in Illinois, helping the growth of cleaner electricity production in our state.

What can I expect to happen after I sign a subscription contract with a community solar project?

There may be some lag time for completion of construction and energization of the project after you sign the subscription contract. Your community solar provider should be able to keep you updated about the status.  When the community solar project begins producing energy, your net metering credits on your electric utility bill should begin a few weeks thereafter, and your subscription payments to the project will likely begin around the same time.

If I subscribe to a community solar project participating in the Adjustable Block Program, can I keep my subscription when I move? Can I transfer my subscription to someone else?

Under state law and the Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, subscriptions to community solar projects must be portable (i.e., the subscriber may retain the subscription while changing locations within the same utility service territory) and transferable (i.e., a subscriber may assign or sell the subscription to another person within the same utility service territory).  The Adjustable Block Program requires that the community solar provider may not charge a fee for transferring your subscription to someone else.  These rights of transferability and portability may still be subject to other restrictions, including the community solar provider’s right to check a new subscriber’s credit score, and the utility’s right to ensure that a subscription is appropriately sized relative to the subscriber’s usage.

Distributed Generation

Can I switch Approved Vendors after my distributed generation project on my home or building is accepted to the Illinois Shines program?

Another Approved Vendor could obtain the rights to your Illinois Shines REC contract, but only with the consent of your original Approved Vendor.

Does my system produce electricity in winter months?

Yes, solar systems still produce electricity in the winter months, but production could be significantly lower due to winter’s shorter days, the lower angle of the sun in winter, and snowfall that may occasionally cover your panels.

If your solar system was designed to offset all of your annual electricity usage, it was likely designed to produce excess electricity in summer months, which can balance out lower production experienced in winter months. Under the Illinois Public Utilities Act (Sec. 5/16-107.5. Net electricity metering), utilities must allow unused net metering credits (from high production months during spring and summer) to carry forward and offset subsequent electricity usage until the end of your annual period (which you can choose to be either the end of April or October each year).

After the annual period closes, these credits expire and can no longer be used toward your electricity bill. If you install solar in the fall or winter, your system has not yet had a chance to generate excess credits during high production months. This could result in your electricity bill not decreasing significantly since the installation occurred during lower production months. At this point in the year when lower production occurs, your system’s production might be simply meeting the needs of your home/property thus not generating any excess power just yet.

Please note that if you are not a customer of ComEd, Ameren, or MidAmerican, excess net metering credits may or may not carry forward. Additionally, keep in mind that the carrying forward of net metering credits only applies to specific rate classes, which can vary depending on utility. Please check with your electric utility to learn more about its specific metering policy.

If you believe that your system is underperforming, please contact your Installer for more information. If you have questions about your Illinois Shines application, please contact your approved vendor.

For more information about net metering, please click on the following ComEd, Ameren, and MidAmerican links.

Consumer Protections and Illinois Shines

What consumer protections does Illinois Shines provide?

The Agency requires the following documents to be provided to all customers by Approved Vendors participating in the program to ensure strict consumer protections:

 

  • Disclosure Forms: The Agency, along with the Program Administrator, has developed standard Disclosure Forms for the Approved Vendors to provide to each Program participant before the execution of a contract for on-site system installation or for a community solar subscription. There are different disclosure forms depending on the contract structure that you sign with your installer or sales agent.
  • Contract Requirements: A list of contract requirements were developed by the Agency and its Program Administrator for the Approved Vendors. Your installation contract or community solar subscription contract must cover all of the terms in this list.
  • Brochure: The Agency requires Approved Vendors to give all Program participants an informational brochure prior to the execution of the contract with the Program participant. This brochure is available in both print and electronic form and informs consumers of their rights, procedures for filing complaints, and includes where to more information on the Program website.
  • To further ensure consumer protection, Approved Vendors must also agree to provide sales and marketing information, including contract prices and sales volumes, to the Agency on a confidential basis. The Program Administrator acts on behalf of the Agency to review these marketing materials to ensure that Approved Vendors are acting in good faith.

How do I file a complaint?

To file a complaint, visit our Consumer Complaint Center.