Environmental and consumer advocates, energy efficiency experts, faith
leaders and clean energy businesses call for passage of amended energy bill, an important step forward to build jobs across Illinois, save customers money and act on climate.
For Immediate Release, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016
Representatives of Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC), a group of environmental groups, consumer advocates, faith leaders and clean energy businesses, today called on members of the General Assembly and Governor Rauner to act immediately on a recently-amended version of energy legislation known as the Future Energy Jobs bill. If enacted during the current veto session, they said, the bill could modernize Illinois’ energy future, creating tens of thousands of jobs, saving billions of dollars in wasted energy and cleaning up the air Illinois families breathe.
The ICJC helped negotiate significant revisions to the original Future Energy Jobs Bill, including stripping out coal subsidies and demand charges. Participants in Tuesday’s press conference in Springfield included members of groups who had expressed reservations to the original bill.
“The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is a very diverse group of people who came together around shared priorities for Illinois’ energy future: seizing the economic benefits of the clean energy economy in a way that benefits all communities, especially our most disadvantaged; acting on climate change and promoting environmental justice; and maximizing savings for consumers while creating thousands of good paying jobs. This coalition has changed old-school energy politics in Illinois for the better, and we will keep working together to make clean energy an essential and growing part of Illinois’ future,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter.
In addition, scheduled speakers include representatives of key ICJC members, including Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Citizens Utility Board (CUB), Faith in Place, Elevate Energy and the U.S. Green Business Council. Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA) is also expected to back the bill in addition to several wind energy companies.
The groups pointed to two key of areas of the bill that would help drive new investment in Illinois, create tens of thousands of jobs in every part of the state, lower customers’ electric bills and provide assistance to low-income communities.
The first area is an agreement to fix and expand the state’s broken Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). In the absence of a fully functioning RPS, clean energy businesses have lacked the predictability they need. Meanwhile other states have seized private investment and created jobs that could have come here. Last year alone, Illinois lost more than 500 jobs in the wind and solar industries combined, while dozens of other states registered significant gains in these sectors. The RPS has also been susceptible to sweeps by Illinois lawmakers, who diverted the funds.
“Right now, Illinois is missing out on millions of dollars of private investment and hundreds of jobs because our renewable energy policies are broken. States like Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas are reaping the rewards of the clean energy economy, while Illinois falls further behind,” said Andrew Barbeau, a senior clean energy consultant for EDF. “This bill finally gives wind and solar businesses a secure, predictable set of contract rules and investment flows that cannot be swept or diverted by the General Assembly. The clean energy provisions will lead to between $12 and $15 billion in additional private investment coming into the state – making the Future Energy Jobs Bill the greatest economic development plan Illinois has seen in years.”
The second critical component of the bill expands energy efficiency, the key to reducing or holding steady electric bills for all consumers. Energy efficiency has a proven track record in Illinois, saving money and putting people to work. Since energy efficiency standards were passed in 2007, customers have saved over $1 billion on their electric bills. Today, 86,000 Illinoisans work in this field, weatherizing or insulating buildings, designing efficiency measures and upgrading appliances.
Under the new legislation Illinois would again become a national leader in energy efficiency programs in the country. “There is vast untapped potential to save money, reduce pollution, create jobs, and boost Illinois’ economy by cutting energy waste—and the energy efficiency provisions in this bill hold the key. We know efficiency works—its been tested here and elsewhere. So we know it tamps down monthly electricity bills, helps us improve our homes, creates jobs and creates demand for products from Illinois manufacturers,” said Nick Magrisso, Midwest States Legislative Director, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“Illinois has among the lowest electricity rates in the Midwest in large part because we pioneered energy efficiency programs back in 2007. Its Economics 101– lower energy demand means lower energy prices. With energy efficiency programs, individual consumers can do nothing and still enjoy lower rates compared to their peers in other states. A new analysis by CUB predicts these energy efficiency provisions will net annual savings of nearly $15 – that translates into at least $4 billion in energy costs saved. That will keep Illinois a leader in affordable electricity for residential customers,” said Dave Kolata, Executive Director of Citizens Utility Board (CUB), who added that even those customers who do not participate in energy efficiency programs would benefit because it lowers market prices.
Under the bill, ComEd and Exelon would also invest over $750 million in low-income energy bill assistance and investments in jobs in communities in need, in the form of bill assistance, energy efficiency, solar and job training. “Right now, low-income communities and people of color have not shared equally in the promise of a clean energy future. Investment in programs for low-income consumers can not only provide help paying the bills, but can also lead to the new job opportunities and job training our communities so desperately need. By investing in our community, I look forward to the day where our people can not only better afford their bills and upgrade to a better paying job they can raise their families on, but we can become the entrepreneurs and build the businesses that can help deliver on these investments,” said Pastor Booker Vance, Policy Director for Faith in Place, a group focused on empowering Illinois people of all faiths to be leaders in caring for the Earth.