3/19/15 – Green jobs bill sets up charged debate on energy

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Matt Porter
March 19, 2015

ILLINOIS – Lawmakers have a proposal to create 32,000 new jobs while making Illinois greener.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill sponsored by State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) and Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) would help invest in new power sources and programs to help make the state more efficient.

The lawmakers want to tap a power source that is invisible, but always present: the wind. Operations manager for the Twin Groves Wind Farm Lori Devore said wind is a smart investment.

“I’ve lived in Illinois all my life, didn’t realize how windy it was until I started working here,” Devore said.

At maximum capacity, this large wind farm east of Bloomington can generate enough electricity to power more than 100,000 homes. The new bill would help other wind projects get started. Advocates hope the bill will help make wind turbines as much of an icon in Central Illinois as corn and soybeans.

“You will see a lot more of them going up if that’s what Illinois is intending to do,” Devore said.

The clean jobs bill would require 35 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. As of this year, Illinois has 22 wind farms of varying sizes. Wind advocate Kevin Borgia estimates it would take at least 12 more large or up to 50 smaller farms to help meet Illinois’s proposed goal. Borgia said Illinois is the perfect place for wind because of its location and existing infrastructure.

“We have very strong winds and are closer to a larger electric load. They may have a lot of wind in the Dakotas, but they don’t have any people,” Borgia said.

Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Vice-President Mark Denzler said the bill gives to many incentives to renewable sources while ignoring the fact that the state receives more than 90 percent of its electricity from non-renewable resources. He said the bill should include benefits to cleaner burning coal and nuclear plants.

“We want competition,” Denzler said. “We want the lowest possible rates for manufacturers in the state.”

Two other bills supported by Com Ed or Exelon nuclear power have also been introduced. Each proposes alternative ways to create green jobs and make Illinois more energy efficient.