For nearly two weeks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Resilient Chicago plan to“transition to 100% clean, renewable energy in buildings community-wide by 2035” was top dog in terms of Illinois’ plans for renewable energy. However, like an aging boxer, it has been knocked on its back thanks to an upstart bill by state Senator Cristina Castro and Representative Ann Williams.
Introduced on the last day of February, The Clean Energy Jobs Act aims, among other goals, to increase Illinois’ renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 45% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% renewable energy by 2050. In addition, the bill would also creates a program for incentivizing and providing rebates for EV adoption; with the goal of removing the equivalent of 1 million gas cars from the road, immediately directs the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) to procure enough renewable energy capacity to serve 3,000,000 customers and establishes programs to incentivize distributed installations or community solar subscriptions to low-income households.
As the title of the bill reflects and all of the listed goals support, the nameplate goal of the legislation is to expand employment within the state’s renewable industry. Clean Jobs Midwest states that Illinois has almost 120,000 residents employed in the clean energy industry, with the vast majority of those workers being in the energy efficiency sector.
Perhaps the most important factor to consider with this bill is not the policies that are included, but rather what is excluded: nuclear power, and that is direct war on the largest electricity source in the state. Illinois is home to 11 operational nuclear reactors, representing 2/3 of the state’s power. Furthermore, the nation’s largest nuclear operator, Exelon is headquartered in Chicago.
This is especially crazy by comparison. Let’s compare to Arizona, another state with vested nuclear interests. These interests namely lie with the 3.3 GW Palo Verde nuclear power plant, the largest in the nation. In Arizona, Commissioner Andy Tobin has proposed moving the state to an 80% “clean energy” by 2050 goal, which is not only non-binding, but also includes nuclear under the “clean energy” tag. By clearly stating renewable energy, rather than clean energy, The Clean Energy Jobs Act could lay to rest the life nuclear once had within Illinois.
Now comes the most fun part: the waiting. The bill has a long way to go before even getting voted on to become law, and because of nuclear’s influence within the state, don’t expect the bill’s passing to be assumed. Regardless, it just shows once again that the energy revolution and the move to renewables is increasingly coming at the state level.