By Chris Gersh | Daily Herald Guest Columnist
“Growing up as a blue-collar kid from Rolling Meadows I know how important jobs are for Illinois residents. I feel as though Illinois has an incredible opportunity to lead the nation in renewable energy job creation and infrastructure if it could only support the huge amount of progress it has made in the last two years.
Since leaving University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2004 and then the option pits at the Chicago Board of Trade in 2008, I’ve built a new career in energy commodities. I now own a group of companies that provide a wide range of energy services — from utility bill auditing and energy reduction plans to developing wind and solar power projects for businesses, schools and municipalities. I know firsthand that clean energy is a win-win for Illinois because it creates jobs, builds our local economies and is essential to hitting our climate goals.
Despite the critical role clean energy will play in our future, today, the solar industry in Illinois faces an uncertain outlook, and it is time Illinois lawmakers pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) to guarantee this important industry continues to thrive.
My business has completed more than 1,400 projects in 48 states across the country. Even though I’ve lived in Illinois my entire life, until recently Illinois wasn’t a big part of our portfolio. That’s because state policies didn’t support new clean energy technologies until the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) passed in December of 2016. Since FEJA became law, clean energy companies have flocked to the state, communities are benefiting from new solar and wind projects and companies like mine are hiring.
FEJA incentivized development of roughly 1,300 MW of new solar capacity by increasing the program for renewable energy credits, which values renewables for their clean energy. It has been wildly successful, but simply put, the program is not enough to meet the demand for new solar projects in the state.”