Commerce Commission adopts Sustainable Energy Plan

Plan to give wind power major boost, generate billions for new investment in Illinois

CHICAGO—The Illinois Commerce Commission adopted Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s Sustainable Energy Plan. The plan will greatly increase the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency that will create jobs, boost investment in rural communities, protect the environment, promote energy independence and help stabilize energy prices.

“The ICC clearly recognizes how renewable energy can improve our quality of life,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “Relying more on our homegrown energy sources will not only make our air cleaner to breathe, but will also provide consumers some relief from high gas prices, help make the energy grid more reliable, and bring much-needed jobs and economic growth to our rural communities.”

Gov. Blagojevich praised the leadership of Commissioner Bob Lieberman, who led the ICC review of the plan, and utility companies, consumer watchdog groups and environmental organizations for coming to agreement after years of deadlocked negotiations.

Under the plan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the state’s largest electric utilities will begin supplying 2 percent renewable energy to their Illinois customers by Jan. 1, 2007, increasing 1 percent annually to 8 percent by 2013. Illinois currently gets only about one-half of 1 percent of its electricity from renewable resources and has only about 100 megawatts of wind energy in operation. Under the governor’s plan, this requirement will lead to more than 3,000 megawatts of power generated from renewable sources by 2013, enough to serve about 1 million Illinois households. At least 75 percent of this renewable energy—or more than 2,000 megawatts—would be generated by wind power, Illinois’ most abundant and affordable renewable energy resource.

The ICC also adopted an Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard that will lead to greater investment by electric utilities in programs that save energy. By 2007, electric utilities will meet 10 percent of growth in demand for electricity through energy efficiency, ramping up to 25 percent by 2015. Under the plan, utilities will help their customers install more efficient heating and cooling systems, lights and equipment that will slow the growth in energy use and help lower energy bills for homes and businesses.

Consumer advocates lauded the Sustainable Energy Plan for its ratepayer protections. “The governor’s plan is a smart way to help shield Illinois ratepayers from rising energy prices,” said Marty Cohen, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board. “Energy efficiency will save consumers money, and getting more electricity from renewable resources like wind power that are immune from volatile fossil fuel prices will benefit consumers through lower and more stable electricity rates.”

Environmental groups also praised the decision. “We thank Gov. Blagojevich and the ICC for taking this historic first step in Illinois history toward a more secure energy future that will also help protect public health and the environment,” said Jonathan Goldman, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, a statewide coalition of environmental organizations. “We will continue to work with the ICC and the utilities to fully implement the Sustainable Energy Plan and realize the governor’s vision.”

“Today’s action by the Commission is a step in the right direction towards making Illinois a leader in clean energy development. If implemented effectively by ComEd and Ameren, the governor’s Sustainable Energy Plan can be a win-win-win for Illinois by creating jobs, boosting rural economic development, and creating a healthier environment for everyone,” said Howard A. Learner, executive director of the environmental Law & Policy Center. “We look forward to joining the governor and lieutenant governor in working cooperatively to achieve the full implementation of the governor’s Sustainable Energy Plan.”

“The Sustainable Energy Plan will increase our use of Illinois’ untapped renewable energy resources,” said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who chaired the Governor’s Blackout Solutions Task Force. “Boosting our use of all-American energy will put Illinois on a path to greater energy security and a cleaner environment.”

Both of Illinois’ two largest electric utilities—ComEd and Ameren Corporation—have pledged to implement the plan and will begin accepting proposals from wind developers this fall.

“We are excited to work with Gov. Blagojevich and the ICC to bring more renewable energy to Illinois,” said Frank M. Clark, ComEd president. “We’re committed to following the governor’s timetable and, with Commission approval, supporting the level of investment specified in the governor’s plan. Cooperation from all interested parties will allow us to meet that schedule, and we look forward to working with these groups over the next few months.”

“We believe the governor’s Sustainable Energy Plan will attract the necessary renewable generation to Illinois to make this program work. Ameren pledges to take the necessary steps to implement the governor’s Sustainable Energy Plan as adopted today by the Illinois Commerce Commission,” said Ameren Senior Vice-President Steven Sullivan. “The ICC’s resolution sets out a clear timeframe and objectives that, with the help of the ICC and other stakeholders, we fully intend to achieve.”

A recent study by the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center found that the governor’s Sustainable Energy Plan will give Illinois’ economy a boost while reducing air pollution. The study concluded that producing 8 percent of electricity from renewable energy by 2012 would create 7,800 jobs and generate nearly $9 billion in additional household and business income. The study also concluded that by 2012, renewable energy generation will reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions equivalent to four mid-size power plants operating today.

Wind farms benefit rural communities by providing property tax revenue for local governments and additional income for farmers and landowners who host wind turbines on their property. In Illinois, a single wind turbine can provide $3,000-$5,000 annually in income, while farmers can continue to raise crops or livestock up to the foot of the turbines.

From the July 27-Aug. 2, 2005, issue

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