Rockford needs a Department of Energy within city government to fully capture the numerous, growing opportunities to use energy more efficiently and incorporate renewable energy sources into its energy mix.
The growing importance of energy to Rockfords economic and environmental health requires the exclusive focus of competent personnel to keep Rockford abreast of the rapidly changing energy situation. Substantial economic, health, social, and environmental benefits of clean, efficient energy resources are available if Rockford moves aggressively to capture them.
Rockford citizens must have the opportunity to purchase renewable energy for their community. For as little as $5 per month added to a utility bill, citizens could voluntarily ensure that Rockford would obtain 200 kilowatts of electricity from renewable energy sources. For $20 per month, they could purchase 800 kilowatts. Such a program was recently initiated in Naperville, and could serve as a model for Rockford.
An efficiency and renewable energy program will provide health benefits to Rockford citizens as well. Recent studies indicate new efforts are needed to protect fetuses, infants, and children from ambient air pollutants. Existing federal and state standards for ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, mercury, and diesel exhaust may fail to protect children. In adults, air pollutants are suspected of accelerating the narrowing of carotid arteries and inflaming respiratory blood vessels. A community air quality assessment should be done to document current air quality conditions in Rockford. As the Rockford Energy Plan is implemented, improvements in local air quality can be documented. The University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford should be asked to conduct such a study.
Some of the ideas presented in this paper call for policy initiatives on the part of the mayor. Fortunately, some favorable policies are already in place with Commonwealth Edison which facilitates connecting to the grid and having a rate structure favorable to selling independent power production back to them. In other instances, policy changes within the city will have to be promulgated. State policies regarding interconnection issues with the grid are under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Commerce Commission. It is important to keep abreast of those developments as well. The Illinois Commerce Commission is now considering new rules governing interconnection issues. Although these rules will affect Rockford, the city has not expressed an opinion on the issue. Chicago has made its views known to state officials as it recognizes the importance of the issue for its program of generating electricity from renewable energy sources.
While Rockford has begun to awaken from its energy slumber, a much more vigorous and comprehensive approach to energy policy is essential to help restore the citys economic vitality. Energy options available to the city have been well publicized through the press, radio and television. Position papers have been presented both in the press and through public meetings. While there are some stirrings within the city, Rockford remains energy challenged awaiting a much stronger political voice. Renewable energy needs the same level of political visibility as it receives in Chicago from Mayor Richard Daley.
From the July 13-19, 2005, issue