The push for clean energy in Illinois

Letter to the Editor by Don Dieckmann

When the Dynegy-Vistra power plant in Wood River abruptly closed its doors in 2016, I anticipated the hardships Alton area communities would face as a result. I knew the plant’s closure would mean a loss of jobs, a drop in economic activity, and a struggle to address a dirty legacy of leaching coal-ash ponds that continue to threaten the area’s waterways and groundwater tables. Having lived in the Riverbend area for more than 30 years, I recognized the community would need job training and economic development to survive and clean up its environment.

Recently, I started a nonprofit business conducting energy audits on residential and commercial properties to help the owners conserve energy and lower their energy bills. Having a more efficient home or business doesn’t just reduce costs, it also makes us less dependent on dirty fossil fuels and lowers our carbon footprint, making it an affordable strategy for mitigating climate change and strengthening the economy.

Although Illinois’ energy economy is competitive by national standards, we could lose our advantage if we don’t increase our investment in clean energy. Thanks to smart energy legislation over the last decade, like the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act, Illinois businesses are seeing the benefits of clean energy. Illinois enjoys some of the lowest electric bills in the nation and over 123,000 residents work in the clean energy industry. In fact, Illinois is currently number one in the Midwest in energy efficiency, renewables, clean fuels, and grid and storage jobs.

Thanks to the Future Energy Jobs Act, efficiency upgrades for homes and small businesses have lowered utility bills by more than $300 million in just two years. That’s a big reason why it is so important to push for new, more comprehensive legislation like the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) in Springfield in 2019.

CEJA will:

  • Help communities like Wood River that have relied on or have been affected by fossil fuel jobs by providing for a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy use. This includes new state resources for business tax incentives, workforce training, site cleanup and reuse, and help securing new sources of local tax revenue.
  • Redirect money from polluting power plants to invest in low-cost renewable energy and energy efficiency, which means lower electric bills for Illinois residents and businesses.
  • Empower local communities to develop Community Energy and Climate Plans to direct comprehensive local investment in energy, transportation, workforce, and environmental projects.
  • Spark more than $30 billion in private investment in renewable energy across Illinois, bringing more businesses to the state.

Read the entire piece at Advantage News.