Below, please find a list of commonly asked questions and answers on the equity portal.
- What is the Energy Workforce Equity Portal?
- Who should use this portal?
- What is the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act?
- What does the Illinois Power Agency do?
- What workforce training programs did CEJA create?
- What are the solar incentive programs in Illinois, and what do they do?
- What is an Equity Eligible Person and what does that have to do with solar energy?
- What is an Equity Eligible Contractor?
- What is an Equity Investment Eligible Community?
- What are the benefits of being an Equity Eligible Contractor?
- I’m not sure if I qualify as an Equity Eligible Person/Contractor. Who should I ask for help?
- Where can I find more information about Illinois Shines?
- Where can I find more information about Illinois Solar for All?
- What is the Minimum Equity Standard?
- I want to hire Equity Eligible Persons, but there are none listed in my area. Where can I find more resources for recruiting EEPs?
- I’m interested in running a CEJA-funded workforce training program. How do I apply?
- How do I enroll in one of the qualifying workforce training programs to become an Equity Eligible Person?
What is the Energy Workforce Equity Portal?
The Energy Workforce Equity Portal is a publicly accessible database of clean energy vendors and subcontractors, including Equity Eligible Contractors.
Who should use this portal?
This portal is intended to provide useful information to those looking to work in the renewable energy sector in Illinois, companies already participating in IPA programs and procurements that need to comply with the minimum equity standard, companies looking to qualify as Equity Eligible Contractors, and anyone interested in learning more about what the IPA and DCEO are doing to ensure an equitable energy transition and clean energy economy.
What is the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act?
The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act is the colloquial name for Public Act 102-0662, a piece of legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker on September 15, 2021. The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, or “CEJA”, expanded and updated the existing programs run by the IPA that issue incentives for distributed solar generation projects. Those programs are Illinois Shines and Illinois Solar for All. CEJA added new provisions to those programs and to the IPA’s competitive procurements for utility-scale renewable energy that seek to ensure that the Illinois clean energy economy is inclusive and accessible to communities that have been historically excluded from economic opportunities and that have suffered disproportionate levels of environmental pollution and hazards.
What does the Illinois Power Agency do?
The Illinois Power Agency, or “IPA”, is an independent state agency established in 2007 by the Illinois Power Agency Act. The mission of the Agency is the planning and procurement of reliable, efficient, and cost-effective electricity for residents and businesses in an ethical and objective manner, insulated from improper influence. The IPA also administers incentive programs and procurements to promote renewable and zero-carbon energy generation, while building an equitable clean energy future for all Illinoisans.
What workforce training programs did CEJA create?
CEJA created five main workforce training programs: the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program, the Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program, the Illinois Climate Works Preapprenticeship Program, Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program, or the Clean Energy Primes Contractor Accelerator Program.1 These programs are run by the . Please see the workforce trainings program page of this website for more information.
What are the solar incentive programs in Illinois, and what do they do?
The Illinois Shines and Illinois Solar for All programs are the non-competitive programs that provide incentives for installing solar distributed generation projects and community solar projects. The overall purpose of these programs is to encourage the installation of solar energy projects, to reduce the cost of adopting solar for Illinois residents, and to ensure that low- and moderate-income residents have access to the benefits of solar energy, such as decreased utility bills.
These incentive programs provide payments based on the size of the project and the number of “Renewable Energy Credits” the project will generate. A Renewable Energy Credit (“REC”) is a tradable credit that represents the environmental attributes of the energy produced from a renewable energy resource. One REC represents the environmental benefit (e.g., the reduction in emissions) associated with 1 MWh of energy generated by a renewable energy source.
Approved Vendors (solar developers and contractors participating in the IPA’s solar incentive programs) receive incentives through Illinois Shines or Illinois Solar for All in exchange for the RECs produced by the project, which then count toward meeting the level of renewable energy generation required under Illinois law. The incentive payments in turn reduce the cost of the project for the resident/consumer that purchases it.
What is an Equity Eligible Person and what does that have to do with solar energy?
An Equity Eligible Person (“EEP”) is a person that “would most benefit from equitable investments by the State designed to combat discrimination,” and CEJA provided four specific characteristics that would qualify a person as an EEP:
Graduates or current or former participants in the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program, Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program, Illinois Climate Works Preapprenticeship Program, Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program, or the Clean Energy Primes Contractor Accelerator Program, and the solar training pipeline and multicultural jobs program created by FEJA
Persons who are graduates of or currently enrolled in the foster care system
Persons who were formerly incarcerated
Persons whose primary residence is in an equity eligible investment community.
CEJA requires companies participating in the Illinois Shines program and in the competitive procurements for utility-scale renewable projects to employ a workforce that includes a minimum percentage of Equity Eligible Persons. Thus, CEJA requires participating companies to hire workers that are members of communities that have historically been excluded from economic opportunities, and in this way accomplishes the legislative objective of ensuring an equitable and inclusive clean energy economy.
What is an Equity Eligible Contractor?
An Equity Eligible Contractor (“EEC”) is a business that is majority-owned by eligible persons, or a nonprofit or cooperative that is majority governed by eligible persons or is a natural person that is an eligible person offering personal services as an independent contractor.
What is an Equity Investment Eligible Community?
Equity Investment Eligible Community is defined by statute as either an Environmental Justice Community as defined by Illinois Solar for All, or an R3 Program Community (Restore, Reinvest and Renew Program, designated by the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax). For maps and address lookup tools for these two types of areas see the EJ communities map on the Illinois Solar for All website and the R3 Program Community map respectively.
As of September 22, 2023, the IPA’s Equity Investment Eligible Community map has been refreshed to include updated Environmental Justice Community areas. These new Environmental Justice Community designations were determined through a process conducted by the Illinois Power Agency’s (IPA) Illinois Solar for All program (ILSFA). The ILSFA team utilized updated data from the 2020 Census and the US EPA EJScreen tool to update Environmental Justice Community designations.
For the 2023-2024 Program Year, the Environmental Justice Communities map (and thus the Equity Investment Eligible Community map) will include both communities previously identified as Environmental Justice Communities and those identified through this new analysis. Because this refresh only results in expansions of the EJ community map, no Equity Eligible Persons’ status will be affected by those changes.
The IPA plans for previously eligible areas no longer identified as Environmental Justice Communities to be removed from the EIEC and EJC maps on June 1, 2024.
Additionally, the Illinois Solar for All program includes a process by which communities can request self-designation of Environmental Justice Communities. The Equity Investment Eligible Community map will be updated on a periodic basis when additional communities are designated as Environmental Justice Communities.
Lastly, the Equity Investment Eligible Community map now features new map layers allowing users to overlay Illinois county, Illinois House and Senate district, and Chicago ward boundaries onto Equity Investment Eligible Community map areas. Users can access these overlay features through a new “Open Layer List” icon found on the map’s option menu.
What are the benefits of being an Equity Eligible Contractor?
Equity Eligible Contractors (“EECs”) are eligible for several benefits within the Illinois Shines program. For example, EEC certified Approved Vendors are eligible to submit projects to the Equity Eligible Contractor block within Illinois Shines, which also enables them to apply for advancement of pre-development capital for that project. Please see the EEC Contractor page pf the program website for more information on how to become EEC certified and the benefits of participating in IPA programs.
I’m not sure if I qualify as an Equity Eligible Person/Contractor. Who should I ask for help?
Please reach out to the Program Administrator of the Illinois Shines program, Energy Solutions, for any questions regarding eligibility for certification as an EEP or EEC. See the “Contact Us” page of this website for more information.
Where can I find more information about Illinois Shines?
Where can I find more information about Illinois Solar for All?
The Illinois Solar for All website provides important information for both residents interested in benefitting from solar energy and companies looking to apply projects for Solar for All incentives.
What is the Minimum Equity Standard?
The Minimum Equity Standard (“MES”) is the minimum portion of the workforce of an entity seeking to participate in Illinois Shines or a competitive procurement that must consist of EEPs. For the delivery year of 2023-2024, the MES is 10%. For more information, please see the current Program Guidebook.
I want to hire Equity Eligible Persons, but there are none listed in my area. Where can I find more resources for recruiting EEPs?
Approved Vendors, Designees, and other entities seeking to hire EEPs should work with local partners such as workforce training programs, community colleges, and community-based organizations that work with returning residents and residents of equity investment eligible communities in order to identify potential EEPs.
I’m interested in running a CEJA-funded workforce training program. How do I apply?
Please visit CEJA-funded workforce training programs page for more information about upcoming funding opportunities for establishing a CEJA-funded training program.
How do I enroll in one of the qualifying workforce training programs to become an Equity Eligible Person?
The “For Job Seekers” section of this website includes a list of currently operating workforce training programs that would qualify a person as an EEP. Please contact those workforce training programs for more information on enrollment windows.