An Open Letter to Bruce Rauner: new clean energy policies = new clean energy jobs for Illinois

Bruce Rauner campaigned for Governor under the theme: Bring Back Illinois. He now has the chance to do just that.

With this in mind, here is an open letter outlining some important actions in the energy arena he should take once he's moved into the mansion at 410 E. Jackson to create jobs and boost the state's economy:

Mr. Rauner —

Congratulations on your election to serve as the Governor of Illinois. There are some tough challenges ahead of you in Springfield, including the economy, renewal of critical infrastructure, setting the state on a path towards innovation.

At this year's Illinois Environmental Council dinner, I was heartened to hear you speak of your long-standing personal commitment to protecting our natural resources. It has also been encouraging to hear you note your support for energy efficiency and renewable energy. We've heard your call for a diverse energy portfolio. If you look at the current stats — Illinois is powered by approximately 40% coal and 49% nuclear energy — which suggests we need more renewable energy and energy efficiency.

A recent study by the Clean Energy Trust, NRDC, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) found that Illinois currently has 100,000 people working in the new, clean energy industry. That workforce and supportive policies are attracting investments by Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others that want to locate in states which can supply them with truly clean, renewable energy.

But we have to do more to compete.

Illinois is at a turning point, with key energy decisions that must be made quickly. The EPA's historic Clean Power Plan to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants will be among the first big issues we as a state must deal with. It will be contentious and many competing interests are already lined up with their hands out. But make no mistake; Illinois is well positioned to meet Clean Power Plan goals by increasing our investments in energy efficiency and new clean energy. Mapping a response heavy on those tools offers you an early opportunity to make Illinois a national leader by fostering bipartisan cooperation and a process that can help make real changes to the culture of the capitol.

Addressing the Clean Power Plan is likely among one of the first big issues your administration will face, here are three things you can push for now to spur the state's energy economy and all the positive activity that brings:

  1. Illinois should invest in all the cost-effective energy efficiency efforts we can find. Right now, 62% of the 100,000 clean energy jobs in Illinois are held by the folks who make our homes and businesses more comfortable and affordable by reducing the energy those buildings consume (and, our resulting energy bills). There are plenty more jobs to be had by strengthening energy efficiency incentives. Those jobs will stay in Illinois, while saving Illinoisans money. A win-win.
  2. Illinois must fix its energy policy. Our Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) needs to be fixed to ensure continued development of new clean energy resources and all the jobs that come with them.
  3. Consider multi-state approaches to reduce carbon pollution such as the nine states that belong to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative on the east coast of the United States (which has achieved admirable economic growth, emissions reductions and minimal impact to energy bills!). Illinois can be a clean energy exporter.

There will be some loud voices pushing you in a very different direction. The fossil fuel lobby has long enjoyed an outsized influence in the Capitol and will bring a doom and gloom message questioning the need for, and cost of, climate action. And you will be asked to give a handout to profitable companies to prop up the state's aging nuclear fleet — there are better, cheaper ways to go that will create new jobs.

As you noted at the dinner, we can have a diverse energy mix and protect the state's natural resources. We stand ready to assist you in that effort.