Environmental Groups, Power Companies, Talk "Clean Energy" Before State Senate Panel

Mar 9, 2020
Originally published on March 6, 2020 5:26 pm

Electricity and environmental advocates offered their pitches to Illinois state senators this week on how to reduce a portion of the state’s carbon emissions. But each group has different ideas about how to do it.

Illinois’ electricity industry is one of the worst in the nation when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the state’s plants release more than 72,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year, making Illinois the 6th highest in the country.

To reduce that number, environmental groups say Illinois should produce all of its electricity with renewable sources by 2050. They argue the state can do that with what’s called the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would change how Illinois procures electricity and prioritize state investment in things like electric mass transit.

David Kolata with the Citizens Utility Board said Illinois should take a larger role in funding that effort:

“You know, there are lots of things we need to invest in," Kolata told a panel of state senators. "We need to invest in new renewables and clean energy. We need to make sure power plant communities are treated fairly. We need to make Illinois a leader on transportation electrification. All of this costs money.”

Power companies, meanwhile, worry about how much those things will end up costing customers. Utilities like Commonwealth Edison told state senators they are meeting clean energy goals set out by agreements like the Paris Climate Accord with existing nuclear technology.

Sen. Mike Hastings (D, Frankfort) heard both sides out at a statehouse hearing. He said any statewide energy measure has to answer three questions:

“How do we reduce the carbon footprint in Illinois? How do we invest in more renewable energy, and what are we gonna do with the existing energy infrastructure in our state?” Hastings asked reporters during a news conference.

Governor J.B. Pritzker has said passing some kind of clean energy measure is a priority this session.

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