Illinois's climate plan can also be its plan for economic growth

Following a historic weekend during which 400,000 Americans marched through New York City to call for climate solutions, the Illinois Commerce Commission is preparing for its second public meeting on the proposed federal carbon pollution rules.  This time, the focus will be on clean energy solutions -- renewable energy and energy efficiency.  

NRDC will be there as part of a panel of energy efficiency experts, to explain how we can use efficiency to reduce Illinois carbon emissions by 19 million tons per year while putting Illinoisans to work, reducing electricity bills, rebuilding our infrastructure and aligning our economic prosperity with our need for a health planet.   Our message is that we should grab this opportunity to invest in the clean resources that will power our future, rather than pouring more money into the technologies of the past. 

Below is a preview of my presentation for tomorrow.  If possible, I will also be live tweeting the meeting, so follow me here!  @rdstanfieldNRDC

Energy efficiency is working for Illinois right now –

  • Saving Energy.  With savings of more than a million mWh per year, each year’s programs are reducing statewide electricity demand by enough to power well over 100,000 homes.   

  • Saving money:  Our efficiency policies are reducing electricity bills.  We are saving consumers $2 to $3 dollars on energy costs for every dollar we spend to save energy.

  • Benefitting Everyone:  Every customer has opportunities to save energy, and benefits of efficiency are seen in every sector.   From the iconic skyscrapers of downtown Chicago to apartment buildings in Champaign-Urbana to small businesses and industrial facilities, customers are using the programs to make their buildings and facilities more valuable, profitable, comfortable and healthy.

  • Reducing pollution:  Energy efficiency under current policies alone can reduce carbon emissions by 12 million tons per year, and if we strengthen our policies we can cut emissions by 19 million tons per year.  Today Illinois plants emit roughly 92 million tons of carbon each year.  Therefore energy efficiency can reduce carbon emissions by roughly 20 percent.

  • Putting people to work:  Of the estimated 96,000 Illinoisans working in the clean energy industry, 62 percent are employed designing, building, manufacturing, installing or operating energy efficiency measures.

Significantly more energy savings are possible than are captured under current policies.  Illinois potential studies, experience in other states, and the emergence of new technologies all suggest that Illinois can achieve at least 30 percent greater savings than is being achieved under current law.

Policy barriers under current law are constraining the success of energy efficiency.   Illinois should address these barriers as soon as possible, as it prepares the state SIP for compliance with the Clean Power Plan rules. 

Efficiency can step up to be central strategy for complying with the carbon rules.  U.S. EPA sharply underestimated the potential for energy efficiency to reduce emissions in Illinois when it set the Illinois emission target.

Carbon rules do not eliminate the need for strong state energy policies.  To the contrary, every state that has regulated carbon through a market based approach also has adopted state energy policies to ensure that energy dollars are spent wisely on resources that produce the benefits they promise.

NRDC has been deeply engaged in a six-year process of ramping up energy efficiency programs that are currently reducing electricity demand by more than one million MWh of power each year and have saved customers more than $1 billion dollars by avoiding the need to generate, transmit and distribute electricity.  By next year, these programs will be reducing electricity sales by 1.4 percent per year.