Where is it we go from here?

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

The first Winnebago County Renewable Energy Expo was held Nov. 8 at the Klehm Arboretum. Thirty local businesses, industries and organizations had exhibits. Winnebago County, Freedom Field, the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and Rock Valley College presented the event.

Upon entering the building, a visitor was greeted with the buzz of stimulating conversations between the enthusiastic providers of renewable energy.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) welcomed everyone there and later presented certificates of recognition to 36 area organizations and individuals for their leadership by example in renewable energy and efficiency.

Three major speakers presented their views on the future of renewable energy. Doug Scott, chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, spoke about “Renewable and Energy Efficiency in Illinois — Present and Future.” He provided an overview of where we are in energy efficiency and renewable energy in Illinois, and future possibilities within the purview of the Commission.

He is pleased that Illinois has climbed into the top 10 states in the nation in terms of the effectiveness of its energy efficiency programs. He would like to see the cap on spending for these efforts lifted to provide addition funds for actions that save energy and provide for clean energy for the future.

He suggested the federal initiative to reduce carbon emissions from power plants could beneficially unite natural gas power plants with the energy derived from the wind and the sun.

Keynote speaker Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, spoke about “Clean Energy Gamechangers: Transforming the Midwest’s Electricity Future.”

He sees the “gamechangers” as transforming and disrupting the electrical sector as cell phone technology did to the telecommunications sector. He discussed them in terms of how they provide better services for consumers, a cleaner environment and more economic growth. A win-win situation.

Learner predicted flat to possibly decreasing demand for electricity in Illinois because of efficiency programs and appliances. He was pleased by the prospect of new wind farms coming on line and the need to expand the grid to bring the clean power into the marketplace. He indicated building blades for large wind generators will continue to provide jobs in the region, as shipping them great distances is difficult and costly. The use of components used in assembling 100 high speed rail cars in Rochelle also provides jobs. As one who travels by train to Ann Arbor, Mich., to teach law classes, he cited its many personal benefits to him, along with the energy efficiency of such transport.

Bob Vogl, a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Board and a founder of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association, addressed “Future Directions” from the perspective of unmet opportunities in the area for additional applications of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

It was good to meet many area leaders in renewable energy and be able to honor them for their accomplishments.

We plan to hold another expo next year and anticipate even more interest and higher attendance.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Nov. 20-26, 2013, issue

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