Business, enviro groups see strong prospects for Illinois 100% clean energy bill
The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition on Thursday announced a comprehensive clean energy bill that would bring the state to 100% renewable energy by 2050 with a carbon free power sector by 2030.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 2132) calls for the procurement of at least 16,500 MW of solar and 7,300 MW of wind by 2031 to reach 50% renewables. It's divided into four "pillars" — reaching 100% renewables by 2050, gaining a 100% carbon free power sector by 2030, drastically reducing emissions from the transportation sector and creating thousands of clean energy jobs.
Both legislative chambers hold a Democratic majority, and several of those legislators as well as the newly elected Democratic governor ran on strong clean energy platforms in last year's election, J.C. Kibbey, Illinois Clean Energy Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who worked closely on the creation of the bill, told Utility Dive.
The state's original clean energy mandate was to generate 25% of its electricity from renewables by 2025. Gov. J.B. Pritzker ran his campaign in part on doubling the mandate, making the new bill, introduced one month into his term, a more ambitious undertaking.
"Sometimes you see ambitious bills that are kind of just a messaging vehicle," said Kibbey. "This is not that, we think this has broad political support."
"We have a significant group of legislators who ran on and won on supporting 100% renewable energy and we have a big and a broad coalition with all kinds of different groups with folks across the state who support this, so I think the political will is there," he added.
Currently, Illinois generates 6% of its electricity from renewable energy, with the majority of its electric generation coming from nuclear and coal-fired power. The bill addresses a number of avenues necessary to achieve the additional 94%, including energy storage, energy efficiency, changes to capacity procurement, grid modernization and land use considerations.
While some states set storage mandates to drive procurement, such as New York’s ambitious target of 3 GW by 2030, Illinois is creating a clean peak program incentive to encourage development. The program works with utilities to bend the demand curve down and communicate peak reductions back to regional transmission operators (RTOs) in hopes that the RTOs will shift peak demand requirements accordingly, Kibbey said.
If FERC does not allow subsidized resources like wind solar and nuclear to participate in capacity markets, Illinois and other states have indicated they could reevaluate their membership in PJM. The bill addresses this issue, directing the state to take over capacity procurement responsibility for northern Illinois to allow renewables to continue participating in the market.
The bill also calls for a more integrated grid planning process, encouraging utilities to look more closely at non-wires alternatives and anticipate where renewable energy is likely to be sited in the future, said Kibbey.
Utilities could "tak[e] advantage of areas where there is already significant grid infrastructure that maybe is no longer being used to its full capacity," he said. "Like, say, a former fossil fuel plant that has a lot of transformers and other grid infrastructure on site, and seeing how we can utilize that for renewable energy."
And as utilities look at siting, the bill also notes land-use considerations, and encourages smart siting and better land use policy, including encouraging pollinator-friendly solar sites and brownfield development.
Energy efficiency is also considered essential to achieving the renewables goal, and the bill recommends extending the timeline for energy efficiency programs to maximize benefits.
"When you have a short timeline, it ends up with more small-ball retrofits like light bulbs, which are valuable and important, but when you look at things that are going to drive really large amounts of savings, some of them are expensive on the front end but still save a significant amount in the long term," said Kibbey.
The bill also aims to drastically reduce emissions by expanding electric vehicle infrastructure and incentives, with a goal to reduce pollution levels equivalent to getting 1 million gas vehicles off the road. It also directs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to place more stringent emissions caps on power plants ramping them down each year until they reach zero emissions in 2030.
In drafting the bill, the coalition spent time in districts across Illinois, finding support for a 100% renewable energy plan, as well as addressing concerns over transitioning the fossil fuel community, equitable accessibility to clean energy jobs and coal ash clean up.
The bill directs the state to address concerns over work equity and transitioning communities by creating so-called clean jobs workforce hubs, which include job training, outreach and direct assistance. It also amends the state's Environmental Protection Act by directing the IEPA "to establish and enforce limits on annual coal ash disposal, including a process by which all sources of contamination from the storage of coal combustion residual waste are eliminated by December 31, 2020."
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