A cliff-hanger as Illinois edges closer to passing desperately needed energy legislation


With the Illinois legislative session coming to a close at the end of this month, the state stands at the precipice of passing desperately needed clean energy legislation.

All eyes are on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Consumers and Climate First Act, the most recent legislation introduced, and the bill widely viewed as the most likely to pass.

The bill calls for the phasing out of both coal- and gas-fired power, with coal set to be gone by 2030 and natural gas by 2045. Within these phase-out targets, the bill also includes plant-specific declining caps on emissions that would lead to plant closures and a carbon tax starting at $8/ton and escalating 3% each year.

Pritzker’s bill is a compromise of sorts, with targets that are less ambitious than the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which calls for decarbonizing the power sector by 2030, but more ambitious than the proposed Path to 100, which calls for 40% renewables by 2030 and does not include a firm date for moving to 100% renewable energy.

Compromise or not, the consensus in Illinois is that a clean energy and emissions bill needs to be passed this session, especially considering the state of the state’s distributed solar industry.

Last December, the final incentives from the state’s 2017 Future Energy Jobs Act were awarded, marking the end of a development boom that had put the state on track to meet its 2008 RPS goal of requiring utilities to source 25% of their electricity from renewables by 2025.

Companies and organizations that had previously thrown their support behind the Clean Energy Jobs Act or the Path to 100 now back Pritzker’s bill. They recognize that if no energy legislation passes the current session, then the state’s solar industry will suffer what many fear will be a significant and irreparable decline.

One area where the Pritzker bill finds is similar to other proposed legislation is through workforce training and equity components. The Clean Energy Jobs Act included job creation goals for communities of color and places where coal-fired electricity plants operate. Likewise, Pritzker’s bill includes provisions for the development of clean jobs training hubs, scholarships, and other supports for families of workers displaced by the move away from coal, as well as expansions to the Illinois Solar for All program.

Under Pritzker’s bill, the Illinois Solar for All program would require companies that close coal mines or coal-fired power plants to provide detailed information on their workforce to help the state ease their transition to new work, and to provide two years’ notice of mass layoff or relocation plans.

Pritzker’s bill also proposes to lift the cap on how customers’ monthly bills can be charged to fund renewable energy development. It also includes some significant utility reform measures pertaining with accountability, transparency, and how rates are formulated.

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