Some positive news for clean energy came out in a report by Governor-elect Bruce Rauner's transition team today. Rauner convened a diverse set of business, civic and non-profit leaders to make recommendations to overcome challenges and to elevate Illinois' stature to, "make Illinois great"—a leading theme by the Rauner campaign.
Of keen interest was the Energy, Environment, Utilities, and Natural Resources working group; co-chaired by Amy Francetic of the Clean Energy Trust, Jerri Titsworth of Marathon Petroleum Company, and Charlie Potter of Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. The working group included dozens of volunteer committee members that were equally diverse in their background and industry, expertise and perspective; which issued some fairly positive and forward-thinking recommendations regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy. If implemented, these recommendations would indeed make Illinois great; both for existing businesses or those wanting to locate in the state; and the state's economy which suffers from a higher than national average unemployment rate and could benefit from a clean energy job's plan.
Building on our existing foundation of policies and increasing our commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy, are precisely the shot in the arm our state's economy needs to put people to work and double down on the 100,000 jobs we currently have in the clean energy industry in the state, a number equivalent to our real-estate and accounting industry—combined.
The working group examined existing barriers and opportunities, and made recommendations for the first 100 days of Governor Rauner's Administration which begins January 12, 2015. NRDC does not agree with all of the recommendations set forth in the report or the working group in reference, specifically ones regarding fossil fuel extraction; however, it's worth noting, the suggestions made for the incoming administration to ramp up energy efficiency and to build more renewable energy are:
Capture a larger share of the significant energy efficiency opportunities:
Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective energy strategies, since reducing energy usage costs far less than creating new generating capacity. While the state's goal is to achieve a 2 percent annual energy reduction through energy efficiency, it has fallen well short of that target. The state should seek to expand successful utility and third party (non-utility) energy efficiency programs, while incorporating best practices from other states. Smart-energy management and efficiency retrofits, especially of state-owned buildings and vehicles, also represent an untapped source of job creation for Illinois.
Develop a ten-year energy plan:
An important component of the plan should be to preserve Illinois' diversified energy industry and maintain its competitive energy rates. By restructuring the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the state can meet its original goals of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 while increasing investment in clean energy sources. Expanding Illinois' renewable energy generation through targeted investments will further diversify our energy base and position Illinois well for the future.
These suggestions from the transition team are welcome news to NRDC and many of our partners that have been making similar recommendations for some time. We know based on ample evidence that smart energy policies will lead to new job growth in the clean energy industry that's currently growing at a rate of 9% per year; though we've haven't scratched the surface of the potential of our state's clean energy workforce. Illinois can and should position itself to compete with other states that are currently passing us by in their development of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, while attracting all the ancillary industries—in addition to the direct job growth—that wish to locate in a clean power grid.
Despite the lack of any recommendation by the transition team, Illinois has the opportunity and obligation under EPA's Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from our electric sector; and that opportunity to reduce carbon emissions through the increased dispatch of clean energy resources such as energy efficiency and renewable energy could give Governor Rauner a major bipartisan win as he looks for ways to make the state's economy a competitive one.