The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (Public Act 102-0662) amended the Illinois Power Agency Act to expand the “priority access to the clean energy economy for business and workers from communities that have been excluded from economic opportunities in the energy sector, have been subject to disproportionate levels of pollution, and have disproportionately experienced negative public health outcomes”. Included among the diversity and equity framework, as passed in CEJA, is the creation of an Equity Accountability System (EAS) by the Agency, including the creation of:
- The Equity Eligible Contractor category within the Program
- The establishment of a Minimum Equity Standard (MES) applicable to all Approved Vendors and Designees participating in the Agency’s Adjustable Block Program (i.e., “Illinois Shines”) and competitive procurements. Specifically, beginning in Program Year 2023-2024, which starts June 1, 2023, at least 10% of the project workforce for each entity that participates in Illinois Shines that year must comprise Equity Eligible Persons (EEP). By 2030, at least 30% of the project workforce for each entity participating must comprise EEPs.
Along with the establishment of the Energy Workforce Equity Portal data gathering initiatives, the Equity Eligible Contractor category and the Minimum Equity Standard are important pillars of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act and its diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
Today, the Illinois Shines program formally launches the Minimum Equity Standard, which takes effect with the start of the 2023-2024 Program year, commencing on June 1, 2023. This launch includes the release of the following including at the Program website’s
- Guide to the Equity Accountability System & Illinois Shines
- MES Compliance Plan submission form (Microsoft form)
- MES Compliance Plan questions sample (PDF)
- Minimum Equity Standard Waiver Request
- Minimum Equity Standard Waiver Rationale
- Minimum Equity Standard FAQs
Compliance Plans for Program year 2023-2024 are due no later than June 1, 2023, but effective today, April 14, 2023, Approved Vendors and Designees may begin submitting Compliance Plans in advance of the 2023-2024 Program year.
In support of the Equity Accountability System, the Agency and Program Administrator have delivered three webinars during the current Program year. Recordings, presentation slides, and Q&A for each of these webinars, held on October 24, 2022, November 15, 2022, and March 13, 2023, are also available at the Program website’s Equity Accountability System page. For developers of utility scale solar projects, a separate informational webinar was presented by the Agency on March 31, 2023; materials for that webinar are available at the Agency’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page. Approved Vendors and Designees are strongly encouraged to review or re-review these webinars for important information about the Minimum Equity Standard, explanatory and illustrative information on submitting Compliance Plans, evaluation criteria determining whether a Plan earns a Needs Development, Accepted, or Exceeds Requirements rating, as well as the process for re-submission of Compliance Plans requiring revision, mid-year compliance checks, year end reporting, and more.
As shared in the informational webinars, in limited cases where Approved Vendors are unable to achieve compliance with the Minimum Equity Standard, they may submit a waiver request. Waivers are intended to be granted in limited circumstances, and do not remove responsibility for Approved Vendors and Designees to submit Compliance Plans for the June 1, 2023 Program year deadline. The MES Waiver, and a Waiver Rationale document, can be found on the Program website’s Equity Accountability System page.
In support of the launch of the Minimum Equity Standard, the Program Administrator is pleased to offer supplemental and dedicated MES Office Hours on Friday, April 21, 2023, from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. CPT, with Zoom link: https://energy-solution.zoom.us/j/95588710302.