Illinois Climate Table: Future Energy Jobs Act Implementation Update

By Jennifer Walling, Executive Director, Illinois Environmental Council, @ilenviro

In the waning days of 2016, after more than two years of persistent advocacy and tough negotiations, significant clean energy and climate legislation was passed in Illinois. The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) is momentous not only for what it does, but also for the signal it sends: that even while the new federal administration insists on promoting a regressive, uneconomic, and unhealthy energy agenda, states can assert themselves as leaders in building the clean energy economy. So, what does FEJA do?

In terms of clean energy development, the Act fixes the broken renewable portfolio standard and puts Illinois back on track to acquiring 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. New provisions set explicit, long-term new build requirements that will ensure that renewable energy credits are supplied by new construction of wind and solar projects in the state, including community solar, low-income solar, brownfield solar, and distributed generation projects.

The energy efficiency provisions contained in FEJA will give Illinois the distinction of having one of the top programs in the nation. Illinois is served by two utilities, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and Ameren. Under FEJA, ComEd (which serves Chicagoland and is one of the country’s largest utilities) will be required to reduce energy demand by 21.5% by 2030, while Ameren is committed to achieving a 16% reduction. The act also requires that a minimum of $25 million per year be spent on programs to increase the efficiency of low-income households and includes on-bill financing options.

While roughly 70% of the program dollars allocated by FEJA fund the renewable energy and energy efficiency provisions described above, it also includes support for two of Exelon’s nuclear plants in the form of a new “Zero-Emission Standard” (ZES). Needless to say, the Illinois Climate Table was not thrilled about this portion of the bill, nor that it received the lion’s share of media coverage. Ultimately, however, the Climate Table voted overwhelmingly to support the final bill.

Currently, the Illinois Climate Table is currently focused on implementing the Future Energy Jobs Act to ensure the aspects of the bill we care about are carried out successfully and lead to substantial job creation, greatly reduced emissions, and empower disadvantaged communities to participate in the clean energy economy. We are doing so by working with solar businesses to shape the Illinois Solar for All programs, pushing Ameren to fulfill its obligations, and representing the interests of the Illinois Climate Table in front of the hearings being held by the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Power Agency.

In short, while our new president considers new ways to undermine environmental protections and panders to those abandoned by teetering coal companies, Illinois is busy building the foundations of the future energy economy.

If your organization is interested in the climate table or the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, please contact Jen Walling at jwalling@ilenviro.org to get more involved.