Illinois Bill Pledges More Clean Energy Jobs, Boost to Economy, and Cleaner Air

Illinois is two-for-two on clean energy wins. Today, Illinois legislators introduced a bill to spur significant new growth in the clean energy industry, creating an estimated 32,000 jobs annually across Illinois once proposed clean energy standards are fully implemented. Already a leader in America’s clean energy economy, Illinois, with this bill, would help boost the 100,000 clean energy jobs that already exist in the state, protect our children and future generations from the impacts of climate change, as well as maintain a reliable and affordable electricity system.

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The bill, endorsed by the recently-formed Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, of which EDF is a member, contains three main components:

  • Strengthening Illinois’ energy efficiency policies

The bill would increase standards to reduce electricity use in Illinois by 20 percent by 2025, a 50 percent increase in savings compared to what would otherwise occur based on current trends. The bill also improves on-bill financing and real-time pricing programs to help more Illinoisans save money.

  • Updating and extending the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to enable solar and wind energy projects to flourish.

The bill would revise the current RPS to increase the share of power coming from renewable sources to 35 percent by 2030, up from the state’s current standard of 25 percent by 2025. The bill also makes technical fixes to the RPS that energy experts say have become necessary since more customers and municipalities have started purchasing energy from alternative suppliers rather than from utilities.

  • A market-based strategy to meet new federal carbon rules

The bill directs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to develop a market-based approach to meet the proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. The bill contemplates a cap on emissions coupled with an auction of carbon dioxide emission allowances. The revenues generated by the auction would then be invested in areas such as workforce development, low-income bill assistance, and research and development of new clean energy technology.

Broad Consensus

With job-creating numbers like these, it’s no wonder representatives from both sides of the aisle are lining up to pledge their support for this bill. Here are a few comments from those who have already signed on:

“This bill benefits people in every part of Illinois, in our biggest cities, in suburbs, in farming communities– anywhere where people would gain from new jobs, better health and a cleaner environment,” said Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), who added that it was urgent that lawmakers act quickly to pass the bill. “As strong as the clean energy economy is today, with 100,000 clean energy jobs throughout the state, Illinois is at a tipping point. There is no time to waste,” he said.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) agreed. “We urge our colleagues to act now and join us in passing this bill,” she said. “In the race to build a long-term, sustainable and profitable clean jobs economy, too many states are beginning to outpace us.” In recent weeks, for example, it was reported that Oklahoma had surpassed Illinois as a generator of new wind energy. More than 600 megawatts of new wind energy had come on line in Oklahoma during 2014; Illinois registered zero.

Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) explained that the bill offers sizable benefits to the labor community. “The chance to create tens of thousands of new jobs—and add to the ranks of organized labor—is one that we shouldn’t pass up, and that is why I support this bill,” said Sen. Koehler. “It is union members who have built the big solar arrays and wind farms we see across central Illinois, and who carry out retrofits in downtown high-rises and homes across the state every day. Supporting these fields means more jobs for building trades and other union workers, now and into the future.”

EDF is proud to join the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, which comprises Illinois companies and organizations representing the state’s environmental, business, labor, and faith communities. Currently, more than 33 businesses and 26 organizations have formally joined the coalition to improve the Illinois environment, help consumers, improve public health, and create tens of thousands of new jobs across the state. As the Illinois legislative session continues on, EDF urges the Illinois Legislature to vote “yes” on the Clean Energy Bill to solidify Illinois’ lead in the race to the clean energy economy.

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