Illinois leaders call for new energy efficiency, renewable energy push

Feb. 4, 2015

With Illinois facing critical decisions about its energy future, Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined 26 organizations and 33 businesses and speakers representing the state’s environmental, business, faith and labor communities today in announcing the formation of a coalition that will urge lawmakers to pass new standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy that will create tens of thousands of new jobs.

“Smart, forward-looking Illinois policies accelerating wind energy, solar energy and energy efficiency will create tens of thousands of jobs at more than 400 Illinois supply chain businesses for a cleaner energy future and this broad coalition can help make it happen,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Delmar Gillus, Chief Operating Officer of Elevate Energy, spoke about the many economic benefits generated locally by energy efficiency businesses. “These businesses are working in every neighborhood in this city and every part of this state. They are employing people from every neighborhood, and they are creating local supply chains,” he said.

“Illinois is at an energy crossroads,” said Jack Darin, Director of Sierra Club of Illinois, one of the members of the newly launched Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. “The question is: do we settle for the current energy system that struggles to meet new EPA clean energy standards, regularly raises rates on customers and fails to create new jobs? Instead, we can move decisively toward a cleaner, more reliable and affordable energy future that leaves a healthier environment for future generations—and creates tens of thousands of new jobs across Illinois.”

They were joined by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who added: “This diverse coalition is all the more proof that going green is not a zero sum game. Instead, it is a win-win for our environment and our economy. We are proving here in the City of Chicago that adopting a clean energy strategy is good for the environment, good for business, good for jobs, and good for our economic future.”

Members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition include organizations that have led the fight for a sustainable environment, improved public health and relief for consumers. Joining them in this new effort are representatives of labor and industry—including business owners and representatives of the 100,000 people across the state who are employed in areas such as wind, solar and energy efficiency. The coalition supports raising energy efficiency standards to 20% by 2025, and renewable energy standards to 35% by 2030.

Coalition leaders said that the 100,000 Illinoisans already employed in clean energy exceeds the number of workers in the state’s real estate and accounting sectors combined, and that the figure is growing at an impressive rate of 9-10% per year. Members of the coalition pointed to new data showing that annual job growth in clean energy would more than triple if lawmakers embraced the coalition’s goals. 

A recent analysis shows that fixing and increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy standards to levels endorsed by the coalition would lead to annual growth of 32,000 new jobs across Illinois once the new standards were passed and fully implemented. This would include approximately 25,000 new jobs due to Energy Efficiency investments, and 7,500 new jobs due to Renewable Energy investments. A similar study found that the City of Chicago would see annual job growth of more than roughly 5,000 jobs per year once the new standards were fully implemented.

“This unprecedented partnership between labor, industry and the environmental community will work together to build on the 100,000 clean energy jobs Illinois has already created,” said Jim Buchanan, Business Manager of Chicago Pipefitters Local 597.

“We are an Illinois company. But most of our projects are in other states. In 2014, we put more than a thousand skilled workers on roofs in California, Texas, Utah, and throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic — states that have taken bold, forward-looking steps to embrace clean energy,” said Madeleine Klein, senior vice president of policy and strategy at SoCore Energy, a Chicago-based solar energy firm.

The key principles endorsed by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition are:

  • Revising the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to increase the share of power coming from renewable sources, like wind and solar, to 35% by 2030;
  • Increasing energy efficiency standards to reduce electricity use in Illinois by 20% by 2025, creating tens of thousands of new jobs for people who design efficiency measures, weatherize buildings and upgrade appliances and technologies in homes and businesses;
  • Supporting market-based strategies to reduce carbon. A new revenue stream could be used to invest in areas such as workforce development, low-income bill assistance and research & development into new clean energy technology.

Many leaders have gone on record supporting changes in energy standards. Before taking office, Gov. Bruce Rauner said that he supports expanded energy efficiency, restructuring the RPS, and “increasing investment in clean energy.”  In December 53 Illinois legislators signed an official comment letter signaling their support for the Clean Power Plan.

The press conference was held at Testa Produce, home to the first freestanding wind turbine in the City of Chicago, which generates 750 kilowatts of power, plus 180 solar panels that provide all of its hot water and a large percentage of their electric needs.

Members of the coalition are scheduled to speak in Springfield later in the week.