If you’re going solar in Illinois, you’ll benefit from one of the most generous solar incentives in the country, Illinois Shines. This program provides up-front payments for the renewable energy that your solar system is expected to produce and can cover up to 40% of the cost of your system.
A Brief History of Illinois Shines
Illinois Shines was created as a result of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) of 2016, which Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law on December 7, 2016.
FEJA directed the Illinois Power Agency to set up an “adjustable block program”, under which Illinois utilities were required to purchase renewable energy credits (“RECs”) from renewable generators in Illinois at fixed prices that adjusted only after certain blocks of capacity were consumed. (A REC represents the renewable attribute of one megawatt-hour of generated electricity.)
Although the Agency initially used the name “Adjustable Block Program” for the program it set up (often shorted to “ABP”), it subsequently adopted the name “Illinois Shines”.
The Illinois General Assembly and Governor J.B. Pritzker expanded and strengthened Illinois Shines in 2021 with the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).
What are SOLAR RENEWABLE ENERGY CREDITS (SRECs)?
Illinois utilities are required to purchase most of the RECs in the Illinois Shines program from solar generators. People often refer to these as “SRECs”.
For residential solar systems, they must pay up front for all the SRECs they expect to be created over the first 15 years a system will be in operation.
The Illinois Power Agency sets the prices for Illinois SRECs. As of December 2023, an SREC is worth $83.75 for solar systems under 10 kW (most residential systems), and $76.27 for systems between 10–25 kW. Contact Certasun to understand current pricing.
How much are the SRECs for Your system worth?
The value of the Illinois Shines SRECs for a residential system is simply the number of SRECs the system is expected to produce over 15 years multiplied by the applicable price per SREC.
The number of SRECs a system will produce depends on the size of the system, the orientation of the panels relative to the sun, shading, and a few other factors. Because of this, you might have a higher or lower incentive value than a neighbor with a very similar system.
The following table shows how much the Illinois Shines SRECs might be worth for a fairly typical residential system. For most of our customers, they are worth 25-40% of the cost of the solar system.
Remember that Illinois Shines is only one of several incentives available to customers in Illinois. The federal solar tax credit is worth another 30% of the system cost.
HOW MUCH ILLINOIS SHINES Incentive will you Receive?
Depending on the arrangement you have with your solar company, you may actually receive less in incentive payments than than the underlying SRECs are worth.
Payment for SRECs goes directly to vendors under Illinois Shines, and vendors may pass on all or only some of the the value of the SRECs.
When Certasun designs a solar system for you, we estimate how many SRECs the system should produce and multiply it by the current SREC price. We guarantee we will pay you the resulting amount.
Some other companies describe the Illinois Shines Incentive as an “estimate”, and do not guarantee you will receive the amount listed in your contract. They may also subtract various processing fees. Be sure to understand how much you will receive for certain and how much risk in your incentive value your vendor is giving to you.
“Vendors, not consumers, directly receive the incentive payment for distributed generation (DG)…projects, but vendors may pass along a portion of incentives to consumers, or use the incentive payment to lower the purchase or lease price of a DG project…Customers are strongly encouraged to shop around for different offers, and to be deeply familiar with offer and contract terms they are considering.”
IS THE ILLINOIS SOLAR INCENTIVE TAXABLE?
We believe that the Illinois solar incentive is taxable income. Keep that in mind as you calculate your total cost of going solar. Read our in-depth analysis: Is My Illinois Solar Incentive Taxable?
CLAIMING THE ILLINOIS SHINES SOLAR INCENTIVE
Illinois Shines program is generous but, frankly, complicated. You must work with an Approved Vendor to claim it. Certasun was the first Approved Vendor of the program, meaning we’ve been filing for this incentive on behalf of our customers since it was first introduced.
The best way to estimate the size of the incentive you can receive for your solar installation is to consult with a residential solar expert like Certasun. Get in touch.
Although Illinois Shines is great, it is not the only incentive available to customers in Illinois. Read our guide to all the available incentives.
JANE L., ELGIN, ILLINOIS
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