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Approved Vendor Annual Report – Due July 15

Section 6.17 of the Revised Long-Term Plan describes an annual report requirement for each Approved Vendor:

On an annual basis, each Approved Vendor is required submit an Annual Report of the contracts and systems in its portfolio. The Annual Report serves as the basis for verifying that RECs from projects are being delivered to the applicable utility, and, absent corrective actions taken by the Approved Vendor, will be used to determine what actions should be taken by the utilities to enforce the contractual requirements that RECs are delivered, including, but not limited to, drawing on collateral. Additionally, the Annual Report will be used by the Agency to consider the ongoing eligibility of an Approved Vendor to continue participation in the program.

Submission of the annual report takes place via the ABP portal and is now live.

Approved Vendors are required to submit the annual report no later than July 15, 2020 for all ABP activity from January 30, 2019 (Program start date) through May 31, 2020.

Please note that failure to submit an annual report may be considered an Event of Default under the REC contract and could affect an Approved Vendor’s ongoing status in the Program.  Approved Vendors will have the chance to cure deficiencies by October 13, 2020 under Section 10(c) of the REC contract; failure to cure any deficiencies prior to the October 13th deadline may also be considered an Event of Default.

Please note that per Section 6(d) of the REC contract, collateral drawdowns take place only after a project has been Energized for at least three full energy years.

The annual report includes the following items for all projects:

  • RECs delivered by each of the systems in the portfolio
  • Status of all systems that have been approved, but not yet energized, including any extensions requested and granted (Note that extension requests cannot be made through this annual report. They must be made pursuant to guidance issued by the IPA on May 5, 2020.)
  • Energized systems that have not delivered RECs in the year
  • Balance of collateral held by each utility
  • A summary of requests for REC obligations reductions due to force majeure events
  • A summary of requests for REC obligations, suspensions, reductions, or eliminations due to force majeure events
  • Information on consumer complaints received
  • Other information related to ongoing program participation, including use of graduates of job training programs and other information related to increasing the diversity of the solar workforce

The last item above is currently the topic of a stakeholder comment process; as a result, job training information likely will be collected separately from the rest of the annual report data after the stakeholder comment process concludes.

The annual report also includes the following items for community solar projects only:

  • Percentage of each system subscribed on a capacity basis
  • The number and type of subscribers (e.g., residential, small commercial, large commercial/industrial), including capacity allocated to each type
  • Subscriber turn-over rates

Rather than require the Approved Vendor to compile much of the information for the Annual Report independently, many of the items Approved Vendors are required to report on will be provided by the Program Administrator. For these items, the Approved Vendor will only need to either confirm the accuracy of the data or note any discrepancies in the data set provided.

Please reach out to the Program Administrator at (877) 783-1820 or admin@illinoisabp.com with any questions regarding the annual reporting process.

Response to Comments: ABP Batching Process

The Agency would like to thank all stakeholders that provided comments on the recent request for comments about the Adjustable Block Program’s application batching process. Four stakeholders provided comments and the comments did not offer a consensus opinion. Below is the IPA’s proposed approach after reviewing this feedback.

PRIOR BATCHING PROCESS

Under the original Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan (approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in 2018 in Docket No. 17-0838), all batches that an Approved Vendor submits to the Program Administrator were required to be at least 100kW (with a 50 kW first batch exception for women- and minority-owned firms, and upon application for small businesses) and no greater than 2 MW in size. At least 75% of the capacity of each batch must be Part I verified for the batch to be eligible to be submitted to the ICC for the Commission’s review and approval.

The Program Administrator submits batches to the ICC at least eight business days prior to a scheduled ICC meeting (ICC meeting schedule is here).  The ICC votes to approve batches at that meeting, with each approved batch constituting a new REC delivery contract or a new Product Order to an existing REC contract once executed by each party.

NEW BATCHING PROCESS

Many aspects of the new batching process remain the same as the prior batching process:

  • Batches of photovoltaic project applications are still submitted by Approved Vendors to the Program Administrator for its review and verification;
  • Application fees are still due from those Approved Vendors upon submittal of a batch of project applications;
  • After Program Administrator review and verification of projects, batches are still sent by the Program Administrator to the ICC for its approval on the same 8-business day timetable;
  • Each ICC-approved batch constitutes a Product Order attached to the REC delivery contract.

However, under Section 6.14.1 of the IPA’s Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan (approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in 2020 in Docket No. 19-0838), project applications may now be processed on a rolling basis under circumstances as described below.[1]

  • If an Approved Vendor does not wish to actively manage the batching of its applications, then batches of Part I verified applications that are at least 100 kW in batch size will be automatically submitted by the Program Administrator to the ICC for approval.
  • On a rolling basis, the Program Administrator may also submit additional verified project applications from that Approved Vendor to the ICC for approval, whether as an add-on to an existing batch or as an independent batch (with all verified applications being batched together into standalone batches of no more than 2MW of capacity). Those applications processed on a rolling basis may constitute a batch of less than 100 kW in size.
  • If an Approved Vendor does wish to actively manage the batching of its applications, then it may elect to “rebatch” its verified project applications—including keeping individual verified applications from being submitted by the Program Administrator to the ICC on a rolling basis after verification.
  • Batches actively managed and shaped at the Approved Vendor’s direction must be at least 100 kW in size to be submitted to the ICC for approval.
  • For this election, four business days prior to the Program Administrator’s date of submission to the ICC (with that four-business-days-prior referred to herein as the “Eligibility Deadline”), the Program Administrator will provide Approved Vendors with a list of all applications that have been Part I verified prior to the Eligibility Deadline.
  • Approved Vendors may take one or both of the following elections on a new page in the Approved Vendor portal. Any of these elections that the Approved Vendor chooses to make must be completed no later than 12:00 PM Central Prevailing Time two business days prior to the Program Administrator’s submission date (the “Election Deadline”).:
  • Completely “rebatch” these Part I verified applications into batches of at least 100kW and no more than 2MW, with the content of that batch or those batches determined at the Approved Vendor’s discretion.
  • Hold back any individual verified applications from submission to the ICC.
    1. Approved Vendors may make the election to hold back a Part I verified application from submission to the ICC no more than twice for any given project application.
    2. After the second election, that application may no longer be held back and will be placed into a batch and submitted to the ICC for approval on a rolling basis.
  • After the Election Deadline has passed, should an Approved Vendor take one or more of the above elections and still have batches containing less than 100 kW of Part I verified projects the Program Administrator will use its discretion to make batching decisions for those projects on behalf of the Approved Vendor prior to the Program Administrator submitting batches to the ICC.

Example:

The ICC is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. The Program Administrator must submit batches to the ICC for consideration no later than Friday, July 17, 2020. Approved Vendors will be notified of their eligible Part I verified applications on Monday, July 13, 2020. Approved Vendors may completely rebatch these applications into batches of at least 100kW and/or elect to hold back any of these applications no later than Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 12:00 PM Central Prevailing Time. Any Part I verified applications that are not a) in a batch of at least 100kW or b) held back from submission to the ICC may either be placed into a new or existing batch or held back from submission to the ICC at the discretion of the Program Administrator.

IMPLEMENTATION TIMELINE

This new batching functionality is tentatively expected to be implemented in mid-August. The Program Administrator will make a subsequent announcement once this functionality is live. No action presently is required by any Approved Vendor regarding this proposed batching process. The current interim batching process will remain in effect until such time as the Program Administrator has announced that the new batching process is implemented.

[1] Note that for a new Approved Vendor who has not yet had a batch approved by the ICC, batches submitted to the Program Administrator must be at least 100 kW in size (with at least 75% of the capacity verified for the batch to be submitted to the ICC for approval) until the ICC has approved one of the Approved Vendor’s batches. Once a batch has been approved by the ICC a new Approved Vendor may follow the process of project applications submitted on a rolling basis as described herein.

Updated COVID-19-Related Marketing Guidelines – June 30, 2020

On March 20, 2020, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its expected impacts in Illinois, the Illinois Power Agency adopted the following emergency amendment to its Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program Marketing Guidelines:

In-person marketing and solicitation: Given the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 virus, in-person marketing or solicitation of photovoltaic system sales, installations, or financing; in-person marketing or solicitation of community solar subscriptions; or similar in-person solar marketing or solicitation activity are prohibited. 

Clarifications to these requirements were offered on May 18, 2020, along with additional guidance on June 4, 2020.

This update confirms that the IPA’s prohibition of door-to-door sales and solicitation remains in place.  Although the state has progressed to Phase 4 (out of 5) of the Restore Illinois Reopening Plan, Governor JB Pritzker’s COVID-19-related disaster proclamation was again extended for 30 days on June 26, 2020, recognizing that COVID-19 remains a significant public health risk to Illinois residents.  The Illinois Commerce Commission’s emergency order prohibiting door to door sales by Alternative Retail Electric Suppliers and Alternative Gas Suppliers also remains in place.  As identified COVID-19 cases have also risen nationally, the Agency believes this would be an inappropriate time to start permitting in-person interactions initiated without a customer, homeowner, or business owner’s express permission.

Prior-issued guidance regarding best practices and permitted activities remains in effect.  Should you have questions about whether specific practices are permitted, please contact IPA Chief Legal Counsel Brian Granahan at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.

 

Updated Job Training and Workforce Diversity Comment Deadline

The deadline for submitting comments on the Request for Feedback for Job Training and Solar Workforce Diversity reporting requirements has been extended to Thursday, July 2, 2020. Please submit comments to admin@illinoisabp.com.

As part of this comment process, the Agency also requests that stakeholders provide comments on reasonable timelines and compliance periods for the submittal of diversity and job training information.

Finally, the opening of the Approved Vendor Annual Report portal is now planned for July 1, 2020 (as opposed to the June 22, 2020 date from the Request for Comments). As noted in the Request for Feedback, Annual Reports are due on July 15, 2020, but will not initially contain spaces for entry of diversity and job training information. Those categories will be added upon completion of this stakeholder feedback process.

Duplicate disclosure form creation functionality

Per Section 5(A) of the Program Guidebook, a completed Disclosure Form is required for submission of a DG Part I application. The system size throughout the application process must continue to be within 5% of the size specified on the Disclosure Form. As a result, Approved Vendors sometimes find themselves in the position of having to generate and having the customer sign a revised Disclosure Form when the Part II system size exceeds this 5% threshold.

The Program Administrator has released functionality enabling Approved Vendors to duplicate an existing Disclosure Form and link it with the associated application, freeing the Approved Vendor from having to request that the Program Administrator do this in each instance that it’s needed.

If a new Disclosure Form is required in Part II, the Approved Vendor will see a new alert to this effect at the bottom of the page on Step 9 and the help text on the right side of Step 9 will display a button to create a new Disclosure Form. Clicking this button will duplicate the existing Disclosure Form (with the system size and first-year production cleared out so that these fields are not inadvertently left as is should a modified system spec result in their change), set it to a status of In Progress, link it to the subject application, and withdraw the old Disclosure Form.

The Approved Vendor must then update and complete the new Disclosure Form and send it to the customer for signature. The customer’s signature on this Disclosure Form is a prerequisite for Part II verification.

Please contact the Program Administrator at admin@illinoisabp.com or (877) 783-1820 with any questions.

Updated Covid-19-Related Marketing Guidelines – June 4, 2020

On March 20, 2020, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its expected impacts in Illinois, the Illinois Power Agency adopted the following emergency amendment to its Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program Marketing Guidelines:

In-person marketing and solicitation: Given the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 virus, in-person marketing or solicitation of photovoltaic system sales, installations, or financing; in-person marketing or solicitation of community solar subscriptions; or similar in-person solar marketing or solicitation activity are prohibited. 

Clarifications to these requirements were offered on May 18, 2020, along with a statement that further guidance would be offered during the first week of June.  This communication offers that guidance.

While all four regions of the state successfully achieved Phase 3 (out of 5) of the State of Illinois’s Restore Illinois Reopening Plan on May 29th—thus demonstrating that COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, and ICU capacity remain stable or are decreasing—the IPA does not believe that a full elimination of its in-person marketing and solicitation prohibition is warranted.

As outlined most recently in Governor J.B. Pritzker’s May 29, 2020 disaster proclamation, COVID-19 remains a significant public health threat to Illinois residents.  By way of example, the two days prior to this June 4, 2020 announcement featured official totals of over 200 new COVID-19-related fatalities and over 2500 new positive cases in Illinois.  While hospitalization rates, fatalities, and positive testing rates have recently been declining from peak levels, they remain at levels significant enough to continue to constitute a public health emergency across Illinois.

Although Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan permits gatherings of 10 people or fewer, those gatherings presumably involve individuals acquiescing to person-to-person interactions.  This is not the case for door-to-door sales and solicitation.  An at-risk individual may believe that a visitor to his or her residence is delivering groceries, pharmaceutical drugs, or other true necessities rather than soliciting a product that the individual does not need.  To prevent these and other unwanted interactions during an ongoing pandemic, and to ensure that Illinois residents and business have positive experiences under a ratepayer-funded incentive program, the IPA believes that while certain aspects of its restrictions should be loosened, door-to-door sales and solicitation will remain prohibited. (The Agency notes that the Illinois Commerce Commission’s emergency order prohibiting door to door sales by Alternative Retail Electric Suppliers and Alternative Gas Suppliers also remains in place.)

The Illinois Power Agency will revisit this decision in approximately two to three weeks’ time.  Absent any new announcements from the Agency, this prohibition will remain in place.

PERMITTED ACTIVITIES

In light of the progress that has been made to date, one prior clarification has been revisited.  Passive forms of in-person marketing and solicitation – such as tabling at retail stores or events, or door-to-door distribution of marketing materials such as advertising flyers – are no longer prohibited.  While these activities could increase the likelihood of unnecessary person-to-person interactions, such an increase would be small or already agreed-to through participation in existing commercial channels.  Any permitted door-to-door distribution of marketing materials must consist only of distribution of materials (with no notification—such as door knocking or ringing of a doorbell—allowed) and not include any other marketing or solicitation activities, including in-person sales or solicitation, until such time as the potential customer has received and read those materials and initiated an entirely separate follow-up conversation.

Additionally, in-person meetings with prospective or existing customers (such as a follow-up to an online or phone discussion) are not prohibited so long as expressly agreed to by that customer.  The IPA strongly discourages any high-pressure tactics used to secure such meetings, however, and requests that all Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors strongly consider whether virtual meetings, e-signatures, or other telecommunication practices can instead be utilized.  Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors must respect the wishes of existing or prospective customers who do not wish to meet in-person.

The IPA and its Program Administrators are taking steps to cross-check project applications and disclosure forms received during this in-person sales and marketing prohibition through follow-up with select customers.  These checks are being made to ensure that prohibited sales and solicitation practices are not in fact being utilized.

Should you have questions about whether specific other sales practices are permitted, please contact IPA Chief Legal Counsel Brian Granahan at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.  To the extent not expressly addressed above or otherwise clear, whether a sales practice is permitted under the IPA’s emergency COVID-19-related marketing guidelines will generally depend on whether a) the sales activity could result in person-to-person interactions without the consent of the prospective customer and b) whether a viable alternative avoiding person-to-person interaction can be identified.

BEST PRACTICES

In conducting permitted sales and solicitation activity, the IPA strongly encourages that certain best practices be adopted.

  • First, as noted above, person-to-person interactions should be minimized. If business can instead be conducted through phone, email, Zoom chats, utilizing e-signatures, or otherwise using mediums non-reliant on person-to-person interactions, public health interests as served by utilizing those measures.
  • Second, even under Phase 3 of the Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan, certain best practices continue to be required. For example, utilizing face coverings in public still stands as a requirement under Phase 3 just as it was under Phase 2.  And while certain industries can begin returning to workplaces, social distancing and proper sanitization practices are required to be put in place.  The IPA believes these practices should likewise be required for any solar sales and solicitation practices involving any in-person interactions, and strongly encourages Approved Vendors to ensure that any sales agents or other individuals interfacing with customers are specifically trained in how to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • Third, even if certain practices are not prohibited under the requirements issued by the IPA, Approved Vendors, designees, subcontractors, and agents should understand and operate mindful of any local requirements (some of which may be stricter than IPA requirements).

OFFICE REOPENINGS

Nothing in the IPA’s in-person marketing and solicitation prohibition is intended to address whether corporate, satellite, or other offices of an Approved Vendor, designee, subcontractor, or agent may reopen.  The IPA understands those decisions to be governed by the Governor’s five-phase Restore Illinois Plan and, once permitted by state and local authorities, subject to the determinations of that company’s leadership.

COVID-19 Marketing Guidelines Update and Clarifications

The Illinois Power Agency provides the following communication as an update and clarification of its prohibition on in-person marketing and solicitation issued on March 20, 2020.

At present, the IPA’s emergency revisions to its marketing guidelines prohibiting in-person marketing and solicitation remain in effect until further notice.  In responding to questions about when that prohibition may be lifted, the IPA has offered the following statement:

Given the unknown trajectory of COVID-19 and by when social distancing measures can safely be eased, the Illinois Power Agency cannot offer an estimate for by when person-to-person solar solicitations will be once again allowed under the Adjustable Block Program or the Illinois Solar for All Program.  However, the Agency’s approach is likely to track the approach taken by the Illinois Commerce Commission and other state public utility commissions regarding their in-person solicitation prohibitions applicable to retail electric supply products. In addition, the Agency will also be closely monitoring the Governor’s Executive Orders, disaster declaration, and stay-at-home orders before making any determination. 

The IPA understands that some (and possibly all) regions of Illinois may reach Phase 3 in Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Reopening Plan on May 29th.  While a change to a region’s status will not necessarily determine whether the IPA’s in-person marketing and solicitation prohibition remains in place for that region, the IPA plans to assess the basis for its prohibition at that time and hopes to offer further guidance during the first week of June.  Possible changes could include relaxation of prohibitions for certain regions or for select types of activities, but no determinations have yet been made, nor will be made, until that time.

Over the past two months, the IPA has received questions about the scope of the current prohibitions; clarifications offered are memorialized below.

  • Project development work (such as system installation) is not prohibited under the IPA’s revised marketing guidelines. However, all Approved Vendors should operate mindful of this ongoing public health emergency and the Governor’s Executive Orders.  Additionally, under no circumstances should installation activity proceed over the objections of the customer or property owner.
  • More passive forms of in-person marketing and solicitation – such as tabling at retail stores or events, or door-to-door distribution of marketing materials such as advertising flyers – are prohibited. The IPA’s objective is to reduce unnecessary person-to-person contact in connection with the marketing of photovoltaic systems or community solar subscriptions, and these activities increase the likelihood of unnecessary person-to-person interactions.

Lastly, should you have any questions about the scope of this prohibition, please contact the IPA’s Chief Legal Counsel at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.

We look forward to providing you with additional guidance in approximately two weeks’ time.

 

Stakeholder Comments – REC contract

As part of the implementation of the IPA’s Revised Long-Term Plan, a substantial refresh to the Adjustable Block Program REC contract  is being conducted. On April 9, 2020 The Illinois Power Agency issued a request for comments on a refreshed REC contract for the Adjustable Block Program. Responses were due on May 12, 2020. The ten comments the Agency received can be viewed here.

The Adjustable Block Program Administrator would like to thank all stakeholders that provided comments on the  Adjustable Block Program REC contract, and will be announcing the next steps in the process shortly.

Ameren Illinois

Carbon Solutions Group

Central Road Energy

Certasun

ComEd

Cypress Creek Renewables

ENGIE

Joint Solar Parties

SRECTrade

Sustain Rockford