HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Yesterday the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.EPA) finalized first-ever limits on carbon pollution from our nation's electric sector - the single biggest source of climate change pollution in America, accounting for nearly 40 percent. Currently there are limits on how much mercury, lead and arsenic power plants can emit, but no such limits exist for carbon pollution prior to U.S.EPA's "Clean Power Plan."
The Clean Power Plan helps fulfill President Barack Obama's commitment to address climate change and demonstrates America's leadership in both domestic and international forums. President Obama unveiled the Clean Power Plan on Monday as part of his ongoing effort to take historic steps to protect American communities from the dangers of a rapidly warming planet and increasingly frequent extreme weather events. In Illinois, President Obama's home state, not only is the state poised to meet the new carbon emissions requirements, but it is on the cusp of rapidly accelerating the growth of clean energy.
EPA'S CLEAN POWER PLAN
Nationally the final Clean Power Plan calls for a 32 percent reduction in carbon pollution from 2005 levels from our nation's electric sector by 2030, which is a two percentage point increase from the draft rule. The final rule seeks to accelerate the adoption of carbon-free energy, such as clean, renewable energy sources. Like the draft rule, the final Clean Power Plan gives states the flexibility to chart their own course to carbon reductions and does not dictate a specific approach to reducing carbon emissions.
ILLINOIS'S CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE
Under the final rule, Illinois will be required to reduce carbon pollution by 31 percent by 2030 from 2012 levels under a mass based reduction. Illinois's Clean Power Plan target is readily achievable and has immense public health, economic and environmental benefits. U.S.EPA does not prescribe to Illinois or any state how it should reduce carbon emissions from the electric sector, thus Illinois has ample flexibility to come up with a state plan of its own choosing.
The adoption of a market-based carbon framework in combination with robust state clean energy policies would enable Illinois to achieve low-cost carbon reductions that yield significant economic upside for consumers and Illinois's workforce.
CLEAN JOBS BILL IS THE BEST STATE POLICY TO FULFILL CLEAN POWER PLAN
Illinois has already made significant progress toward achieving carbon reductions and spurring clean energy deployment in the state. Illinois passed a law in 2007 that requires 25% of the electricity it consumes to come from renewable sources, like wind and sun; and a reduction in electricity sales through energy efficiency programs by cutting energy waste by 2% a year in 2016 and ever year thereafter. However, the state's clean energy standards face real policy barriers that endanger the state's ability to cost-effectively reduce carbon pollution. If left unaddressed, Illinois is in jeopardy of not achieving its federally enforceable carbon reduction target under the Clean Power Plan.
Fortunately, the Clean Jobs Bill (Senate Bill 1485/House Bill 2607) offers a plan to fix the state's structural challenges to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and expand the percentage of wind and sun the state's utilities purchase from 25% by 2025 to 35% by 2030, which could help Illinois meet new carbon-free goals under EPA's Clean Power Plan.
Additionally, the Clean Jobs Bill seeks to cut energy waste by ramping up energy efficiency programs under the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) to reduce power consumption by 20% over the next ten years. I recently blogged about Illinois's wildly successful energy efficiency programs that have saved consumers over a billion dollars since enacted in 2007 and recently become oversubscribed due to pent up demand and an arbitrary limit that restricts our utilities from investing further in the cheapest, cleanest form of energy we can use to meet electricity needs while helping consumers save money on their electric bills.
The Clean Jobs Bill also contemplates the development of a market that places a value on carbon with new limits on carbon emissions under the Clean Power Plan. Under a newly constructed carbon market, Illinois could further reduce its carbon emissions in compliance with the new rule and direct investment from any carbon proceeds into consumer-friendly policies that help families struggling to pay their utility bills, Illinois's workforce and communities across the state that are transitioning away from polluting sources of energy to clean sources, while deepening the state's investments in clean energy.
THE TIME TO ACT ON CLEAN ENERGY IS NOW
Illinois has options to meet the challenge of reducing carbon pollution; though there are some that will say over the coming days and weeks that it's too costly and it will hurt Illinois's economy if we go down this road. But with the newly minted rules of the Clean Power Plan, it's no longer and "if" but a "when" will Illinois take the next steps to achieve results that are needed to spur tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs across the state, save consumers a billion dollars over the next ten years through increased gains in efficiency, and put the state on the path to compliance with federal law. Only one policy has been proposed in Illinois to do just that, and there are over 200 members of the Clean Jobs Coalition, that includes 150 businesses, consumer groups, faith and others calling for its passage; with 85 members of the Illinois General Assembly (58 in the House and 27 in the Senate) signed on as cosponsors making their intent known that the Clean Jobs Bill should be imminently passed. The time is now to pass the Clean Jobs Bill and to act on climate. There's no longer a reason to delay.