Samuel Garcia | NRDC Expert Blog
The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) mandates that at least 25 percent of the Illinois Solar for All Program’s incentives be allocated to projects located within environmental justice communities. On January 17, Elevate Energy and the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) held a stakeholder engagement session to address how the program will address these environmental justice obligations. While qualification for Solar for All depends on household income—not on being situated within an environmental justice community—this 25 percent threshold will give proposed projects in environmental justice communities an advantage when the Program Administrator selects approved projects and awards incentives under Solar for All.
Broadly speaking, environmental justice refers to eliminating and avoiding the disproportionate impacts caused by environmental pollution on communities with significant socioeconomic burdens. Environmental justice communities struggle to receive equal environmental protections under the law and are more susceptible to the negative health impacts of pollution.
The Solar for All Program aims to address existing disproportionate impacts, in part, by broadening and diversifying participation in the development of renewable energy. It does so through specialized incentives, workforce training opportunities, and grassroots education campaigns aimed at low-income communities, communities of color, and other often underserved communities. Specifically addressing low-income and environmental justice communities should be considered a best practice in designing and implementing new community solar and other clean energy programs.