CEJA legislation has boosted Illinois solar development over two years

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The solar industry in Illinois is celebrating the second anniversary of a pivotal piece of legislation that has supercharged development.

Two years after Illinois’ landmark Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) was signed into law on Sept. 15, 2021, solar advocates and industry members are celebrating its success and the rapid progress being made toward achieving a 100% clean-energy future that benefits all Illinoisans. 

“Thanks to the historic Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, Illinois is at the forefront of clean energy in the nation,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin), a chief co-sponsor of CEJA. “CEJA strengthens underserved and over-polluted communities, tackles the climate crisis head-on, and puts people and policy before utility company profits. Two years on, this monumental legislation is fueling job creation and clean energy sector development right here in our communities.”

Total solar capacity in Illinois has more than tripled since CEJA’s passage, with 2,201 MW across nearly 63,000 installations through Q1 2023, according to analysis by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Industry data shows 218.55 MW of solar power has come online as a result of CEJA, approximately 10% of Illinois’ total solar capacity.

“The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act not only positioned Illinois as a national leader in fighting climate change, but it also included key provisions to ensure the clean energy industry equitably provides family-supporting jobs,” said State Sen. Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago). “I’m proud of the progress the landmark legislation has made in two years, and I look forward to the continued progress toward a clean energy future and the creation of thousands more high-quality jobs for Illinoisans of all backgrounds.”

Through the second quarter of 2023, Illinois’ solar installations overall generate enough energy to power nearly 340,000 homes. Not only has CEJA ensured families and businesses across the state benefit from homegrown, local solar solutions to manage energy bills, but CEJA has catalyzed the solar industry’s growth and created high-quality job opportunities for all Illinoisans through intentional, equity-minded provisions. 

“The progress made toward widespread solar adoption in Illinois has been nothing short of transformative in the last two years,” said Lesley McCain, executive director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA). “While we still have a long way to go to achieve carbon neutrality, we as a state have made great strides toward achieving a clean-energy future, creating equitable, family-supporting careers, and fostering more equitable access to solar power for all Illinoisans.” 

CEJA is regarded as one of the most comprehensive clean-energy bills in the country. Its key provisions include increasing the Illinois Solar for All program budget to $70 million per year to further expand Illinoisans’ access to solar, investing $80 million annually in fostering an equitable renewable energy workforce, and carving a path to 100% clean energy by 2045.

Additionally, the Illinois Shines solar incentive program, which CEJA greatly expanded, has supported more than 42,000 projects generating 1,062 MW to date.

“As a family-managed business, entrepreneurship and sustainability run deep in our veins,” said Peter Testa, president of Testa Produce in Chicago and third-generation manager of the business. “The passage of CEJA made it easier for families like us to deepen our commitment to sustainability and increased access to solar for all Illinois businesses and residents. Because of CEJA, Testa Produce was able to recently install approximately 150 solar panels on the rooftop of our LEED Platinum-certified foodservice warehouse.” 

Due in large part to CEJA’s benefits and aggressive renewable energy goals, SEIA forecasts Illinois’ solar capacity will increase by 1,700%, or approximately 40,000 MW, within the next five years. This drastic increase in capacity will not only greatly reduce Illinois’ carbon footprint, but it will also uplift the economy for all Illinois communities. More than 5,600 Illinoisans now work in the solar industry, and employment opportunities are projected to grow 12.3% through 2023.

“It is not an exaggeration to say CEJA is one of the most progressive renewable energy bills in the nation,” said Markus Pitchford, central regional manager for SEIA. “Whether it be CEJA’s investments in workforce development and supporting Black and Brown communities, cost savings created for residents who utilize solar, or its commitment to a clean-energy future, Illinois is on the right path.”

Building on CEJA’s success, ISEA, SEIA, and CCSA have partnered to launch Solar Powers Illinois, a new campaign aiming to capture the positive momentum and promote all aspects of solar in Illinois.

“CEJA supercharged community solar projects in Illinois,” said Carlo Cavallaro, Midwest regional director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). “Illinois Shines has supported nearly 200 community solar projects to date, reaching Illinois residents and businesses across the state and making it possible for everyone to access the benefits of solar energy.”

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