Don't Overlook Much-Needed Energy Efficiency Provision in "Smart Grid" Legislation

Yesterday Illinois lawmakers approved a new law allowing Illinois electric utilities to make a major investment in modernizing the electric system, through a combination of smart grid technology, upgraded underground infrastructure, small distributed renewable power and energy efficiency measures. 

NRDC fought to ensure that any energy legislation clearing the General Assembly this year would contain a strong mandate for energy efficiency.  Not surprisingly, most of the media attention to this issue has centered on the $2.5 billion in smart grid and infrastructure investment.  Accordingly, today’s post is mostly to serve as a reminder that the efficiency component of the legislation that passed will create significant benefits for Illinois households and for the environment. 

As I wrote in August the legislation contained a provision allowing for the expansion of Illinois’s successful energy efficiency portfolio standard.  The expanded energy efficiency policy is designed to ensure that all of the potential for cost-effective savings in the residential market is captured, either by the utility programs which provide customers with incentives to replace lighting, appliances, motors and other equipment, or by third parties who will have an opportunity to bid provide those same energy efficiency services.

  • Conservatively, we estimate that over the next six years this expansion will result in saving as much electricity as is used in 150,000 average U.S. households (or about 1.5 million mWh of electricity). 
  • This savings will lower Illinois electric bills by $650 million per year by 2015, and that savings will total more than $2 billion annually by 2025.
  • According to Skip Laitner, Director of Economic Analysis for the American Council for an Energy Efficient, the expanded energy efficiency effort will create 3500 new jobs by 2015, and 10,000 by 2025.

The Illinois General Assembly is to be commended for recognizing the value of efficiency to our wallets and the environment, and making sure that modernizing our electric system includes a big effort to do more with less energy. 

Unfortunately, there is still the potential for lawmakers to stumble on energy policy this week by approving legislation to force us all to pay for a big dirty coal plant in Taylorville, Illinois. The last thing our economy needs is to be tied for 30 years to a source of energy that is exorbitantly expensive, and the last thing our environment needs is more mercury and carbon pollution.  We urge them to reject this legislation, as they have in previous sessions.