Environmental and Business Leaders, Illinois Lawmakers unveil goals of new Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition
SPRINGFIELD, IL (February 5, 2015) — With Illinois facing critical decisions about its energy future, members of a new coalition that represents 33 Illinois businesses and more than 26 organizations representing the state’s environmental, business and faith communities called on lawmakers to pass new standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy that will create tens of thousands of new jobs.
“Illinois is at an energy crossroads,” said Jen Walling, Director of Illinois Environmental Council, one of the members of the newly launched Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. “The question is: do we settle for the current energy system that struggles to meet new EPA clean energy standards, regularly raises rates on customers and fails to create new jobs? Instead, we can move decisively toward a cleaner, more reliable and affordable energy future that leaves a healthier environment for future generations—and creates tens of thousands of new jobs across Illinois.”
She and other members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition spoke at a press conference in the capitol in Springfield.
Members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition include organizations that have led the fight for a sustainable environment, improved public health and relief for consumers. Joining them in this new effort are representatives of labor and industry—including business owners and representatives of the 100,000 people across the state who are employed in areas such as wind, solar and energy efficiency. The coalition supports raising energy efficiency standards to 20% by 2025, and renewable energy standards to 35% by 2030.
Coalition leaders said that the 100,000 Illinoisans already employed in clean energy exceeds the number of workers in the state’s real estate and accounting sectors combined, and that the figure is growing at an impressive rate of 9-10% per year. Members of the coalition pointed to new data showing that annual job growth in clean energy would more than triple if lawmakers embraced the coalition’s goals.
A recent analysis shows that fixing and increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy standards to levels endorsed by the coalition would lead to annual growth of 32,000 new jobs across Illinois once the new standards were passed and fully implemented. This would include approximately 25,000 new jobs due to Energy Efficiency investments, and 7,500 new jobs due to Renewable Energy investments.
"Governor Rauner pointed to the need to develop policies that make Illinois competitive: this is where he should start. Fix and expand our renewable and energy efficiency standards to unlock 32,000 jobs annually,” said Nick Magrisso of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s not only smart policy to put Illinoisans to work, but the right policy even before you factor in the huge health benefits to our communities, more money in the pockets of Illinois residents, and modernization of our energy infrastructure."
The key principles endorsed by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition are:
- Revising the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to increase the share of power coming from renewable sources, like wind and solar, to 35% by 2030;
- Increasing energy efficiency standards to reduce electricity use in Illinois by 20% by 2025, creating tens of thousands of new jobs for people who design efficiency measures, weatherize buildings and upgrade appliances and technologies in homes and businesses;
- Supporting market-based strategies to reduce carbon. A new revenue stream could be used to invest in areas such as workforce development, low-income bill assistance and research & development into new clean energy technology.
Appearing at the press conference were Illinois lawmakers who share the coalition’s goals.
State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said that the gains from clean energy are “a win for every part of Illinois. That's a win for business, that's a win for labor. And—the benefits keep going, to include everyone who benefits from a stronger Illinois’ economy, and everyone who benefits from a cleaner environment.”
Said Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago): “It’s time to move forward. There is no reason to delay when we know that shifting toward cleaner energy will provide a healthier future for our families—and make Illinois a magnet for clean energy jobs.”
"Illinois leaders must focus on putting our state at the forefront of the clean energy economy with a comprehensive long-term energy plan," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove).
Anne McKibbin, director of Elevate Energy, spoke about the many economic benefits generated locally by energy efficiency businesses. “These businesses are working in every neighborhood in every part of this state. They are employing people from every part of the state, and they are creating local supply chains across Illinois,” she said.
"We can no longer delay getting Illinois' renewable energy policy right," said Chris Nickell of Springfield-based American Wind Energy Management. "We have now fallen behind Oklahoma for installed wind, and every day that passes, rural communities across our state are missing out on tax revenue and farmers are missing out on lease payments. Let's get this done.”
Many leaders have gone on record supporting changes in energy standards. Before taking office, Gov. Bruce Rauner said that he supports expanded energy efficiency, restructuring the RPS, and “increasing investment in clean energy.” In December 53 Illinois legislators signed an official comment letter signaling their support for the Clean Power Plan.