Advancing Clean Energy

Vroom! Illinois Revs-Up for Clean Energy Pivot

December 14, 2016

That roar reverberating through the Illinois economy is the sound of a jobs engine being unleashed by the state’s decisive pivot to a clean energy economy.

Thanks to comprehensive energy legislation just signed into law on Dec. 7, Illinois is set to become a national leader in clean energy and energy efficiency and is poised to create thousands of clean jobs – all while immediately retaining 4,200 jobs at the state’s zero-carbon nuclear plants and avoiding the higher bills that would have resulted from those plants’ early closure.

The win-win accomplishment is due to the Future Energy Jobs Act, which the National Resources Defense Council calls “the most significant piece of climate and clean energy policy in the state’s history” – adding that it’s a policy pivot that will bring “tens of thousands of new jobs, billions in private investments, cleaner air and needed savings on monthly electricity bills statewide…”

Illinois’ leading nonprofit, nonpartisan utility watchdog organization, Citizens Utility Board, underscored that the Act will “dramatically increase investments in money-saving energy efficiency… yielding an estimated $4 billion in energy costs saved over its lifetime.”

The huge jumpstart that the act provides for wind and solar – and the need to meet a tough new zero-emissions standard – means increased energy employment in the power sector and its supply chain, from steel workers to STEM workers. The act also ensures job training to get workers ready for the new clean energy positions.

For energy consumers, the new plan increases funding assistance for low-income customers, strengthens consumer protections and electric bill cost caps, and avoids the increase in consumer bills by keeping open two zero-emissions nuclear plants, whose closure would have added up to $1.85 each month to the average ComEd residential bill and resulted in thousands of job losses.

As the NRDC points out, “Approximately 70 percent of the funds from the overall legislation will focus on kick starting clean energy, which dwarfs the dollars going to aid the two nuclear plants, and will help chart the path toward a clean, modern energy economy for decades to come…”

As notes, the nuclear plants are getting just 1-cent per kilowatt hour in support from the new Act, which is substantially less than the 2.3-cents per k/Wh received by wind or the 21-cents for solar. Because more than half of Illinois’ power comes from zero-emissions nuclear, had those plants been forced to close, the energy would have to have been replaced by coal or natural gas, as renewables aren’t up to scale yet, thereby doubling Illinois’ carbon emissions. Forbes also points out that Illinois avoided a situation similar to that of Vermont, which was forced to close a nuclear plant early, resulting in a spike in electricity prices and emissions and a loss of local jobs.

Here are the six primary ways that the changes are allowing Illinois to jump to the forefront of clean energy leadership:

  1. Renewable Energy: Strengthens & expands the Renewable Portfolio Standard, removing barriers to procurement and providing up to $220M per year in stable, predictable funding for wind and solar development – setting the stage to grow enough wind and solar energy to power 1 million homes by 2030.
  2. Energy Efficiency: Substantially expands energy efficiency programs to drive customer savings, while providing businesses flexible options.
  3. Jobs & Jobs Training: Protects thousands of existing jobs and creates thousands of new jobs, jumpstarting Illinois’ clean economy – while providing job training in communities that need it most.
  4. Zero-Carbon Energy: Introduces a Zero Emission Standard that, with a number of consumer protections, recognizes the value of zero emission energy and prevents the premature closure of at-risk nuclear plants, avoiding energy price increases and preserving associated jobs, economic activity, tax revenue, and environmental benefits.
  5. Low-Income Programs: Commits $750 million of funding for low-income assistance, through energy efficiency programs, new ComEd CARE funding, and funding for low-income community solar and job training.
  6. Customer Cost Caps: Limits increases to all residential and business customers with an overall cost cap within all measures of the bill.

** The views expressed in linked publications are those of the author and not ComEd.