34 renewable projects capable of powering 4.5 million homes sit in MISO’s queue while the grid operator blames others, spreads fear.
CHICAGO – On Thursday, Illinois legislative leaders and consumer advocates sharply criticized the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the multi-state entity that manages the generation and transmission of electricity across Central and Southern Illinois for being “asleep at the switch” by failing to approve renewable energy projects that could reliably power 4.5 million homes in a timely manner.
Rather than act, MISO is pointing fingers at grid reliability, a phony blame game fossil fuel interests and their allies are now playing to call for re-opening the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), the nation-leading clean energy breakthrough which is already saving ComEd customers $1 billion via the CEJA Refund on their electricity bills and creating hundreds of equitable new jobs building our clean energy future.
Leaders pointed to 34 solar and wind projects capable of generating more than 6,000 megawatts of energy sitting in MISO’s queue awaiting approval, enough to power 4.5 million Illinois homes. MISO’s foot-dragging could keep these projects languishing for years.
“The answer to capacity and price issues is not to reopen CEJA, but rather to move quickly to implement it and get existing renewable projects online faster. That starts with MISO ensuring we get those 34 projects capable of generating 6,000 megawatts of renewable energy on the grid. If Ameren customers ever find themselves in the dark, MISO’s inaction is to blame. They are asleep at the switch,” said State Senator Cristina Castro, Chief Senate Sponsor of CEJA and Chair of the Illinois Senate Executive Committee.
“Rather than quickly bringing new energy resources on to the grid, MISO is now trying to shift blame, warning of potential power outages this summer in Central and Southern Illinois, an apocalyptic and misleading view that even Ameren disputes. Fossil fuel interests and entrenched energy lobbyists are jumping on MISO’s blame game and calling for a return to the days when coal and gas generated most of Illinois’ electricity, even as fossil fuel prices skyrocket, emissions pollute our communities, and the planet burns,” said State Representative Ann Williams, Chief House Sponsor of CEJA and Chair of the Illinois House Energy and Environment Committee. “Going back to coal and gas is like pouring gasoline on a fire in terms of hiking energy prices and polluting our communities,” Williams added.
Advocates pointed out that MISO has known the transition from dirty, expensive fossil fuels to clean, less expensive renewables has been coming since at least 2007, when Illinois passed its first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that has only been accelerated by other initiatives.
“For years, MISO has known this transition was coming, through the advent of the renewable portfolio standard and multiple rounds of legislation, including the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016 and CEJA in 2021,” said Jim Chilsen, director of communications for the Citizens Utility Board (CUB). “MISO has the tools to plan and complete this transition efficiently. I join Illinois consumers in urging MISO leadership to stop the delays and get the job done.”
In addition to strong criticism from leaders of the Illinois General Assembly, Chilsen noted Governor JB Pritzker’s comments last week were critical of MISO for failing to strengthen and modernize the power grid.
On July 12, Governor Pritzker told Capitol Fax that, “MISO is a regional compact, and the challenge has nothing to do with the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. It has everything to do with the production of energy all across the region covered by MISO.”
“Governor Pritzker is correct,” Chilsen said. “MISO needs to build transmission infrastructure to move power throughout the region and update policies to quickly and efficiently put these renewable energy projects onto the grid. Illinois consumers are relying on MISO to do its job.”
A video of the news conference is available on the iCJC’s Facebook page here.
The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC) is made up of more than 200 climate groups, healthcare professionals, environmental justice champions, businesses, community leaders, labor unions, consumer advocates, faith-based and student organizations.
Following ICJC’s central role in the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016, the diverse coalition spent more than three years organizing and holding more than 100 “Listen. Lead. Share.” events to gather feedback and policy ideas from residents across Illinois. The work centered around a simple but urgent rallying cry: CEJA can’t wait.
The wait ended on September 15, 2021 when Governor JB Pritzker signed into law the most equitable clean energy jobs bill of its kind in the nation: the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA).
Visit ilcleanjobs.org to learn more.