Illinois Lawmakers Introduce Far-Reaching Clean Energy Bill With Bipartisan Support

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On Thursday, lawmakers in Illinois introduced legislation that would dramatically improve energy efficiency, bolster the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, and create a market-based strategy for cutting carbon emissions. Endorsed by the newly-formed Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, a broad swath of 26 organizations and 33 businesses, the bill’s supporters also state that the law would create around 32,000 clean energy jobs per year.

Sponsored by state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and state Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) the bill, which has bipartisan support, contains three primary elements. For one, it extends and increases the state’s RPS by requiring 35 percent of energy to come from renewable sources by 2030; the current standard calls for 25 percent by 2025. The bill would also increase Illinois’ efficiency policies for homes and businesses by 50 percent, with an aim of achieving a 20 percent demand reduction by 2025.

“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 Harmon.

State Rep. Mike Fortner, a Republican from West Chicago, said that the bill is the “best thing we could do for consumers” while also meeting federal clean air standards.

As for those federal air standards: when it comes to reducing GHGs, the bill asks the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to develop a market-based strategy that would reduce carbon emissions by 33 percent by 2030, which is the current amount required by the EPA’s draft Clean Power Plan for Illinois.

The carbon market framework includes parameters for a carbon auction, revenues of which would be invested in areas such as workforce development, new renewable energy projects and low-income bill assistance. Then 65 percent of the auction proceeds would go to funding energy efficiency and renewable energy, with some portion of that going specifically to low-income communities. 10 percent of the proceeds would go to help environmental justice communities sited near polluting power plans. Five percent each would: fund assistance on energy bills for low-income customers; assist with job transition for people affected by power plant closures; and be put toward “innovative strategies” on energy.

Upon hearing the proposal, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner released a statement, saying he will “carefully consider any legislation that crosses his desk.”

Before taking office in January, Rauner’s transition team said in a report that the governor supports expanded energy efficiency, restructuring the Renewable Portfolio Standard, and “increasing investment in clean energy.”

For now, the vast majority of Illinois’ electricity is generated by coal-fired or nuclear power plants. Illinois is the leading nuclear power producer in the country, with about half of the state’s power coming from nuclear. About 43 percent comes from coal with around 4,000 people directly employed by the state’s coal industry, according the Illinois Coal Association.

In December, 53 members of the Illinois General Assembly sent a letter to the EPA expressing their support for the Clean Power Plan. In the letter they state that “Illinois’ energy efficiency and renewable energy standards are already reducing carbon emissions across the electric sector, while lowering electricity bills for citizens and businesses, and creating tens of thousands of jobs across the state in the process.”