Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois lawmakers are signaling they could be ready to pass legislation that eventually moves the state to 100% renewable energy.
“Our spring agenda must also address the pressing issue of adopting new clean energy legislation,” Pritzker said in his State of the State address last week. “Urgent action is needed, but let me be clear: the old ways of negotiating energy legation are over. It’s time to support consumers and climate first. I am not going to sign an energy bill written by the utility companies.”
But what exactly could that legislation look like?
One proposal is called the Clean Energy Jobs Act, or CEJA. Supporters say it would not only have obvious environmental benefits, but also boost the state’s economy.
Besides moving Illinois to adopt 100% renewable energy by 2050, the bill would close coal and natural gas plants by 2030, and create or expand incentives to electrify much of the transportation system. It would also create initiatives for workers in the fossil fuel industry to transition to jobs in renewable energy like wind or solar energy.
“[CEJA] is centered around renewable energy and support of renewables, but also our bill is centered around supporting consumers, jobs and equity,” said Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, which represents over 90 environmental organizations in the state.
But some groups in Illinois have raised concerns about CEJA, saying it could lead to higher costs for businesses.
Katie Stonewater is the executive director of the Energy Council at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies for companies across the energy industry.
The bill includes “a significant expansion of ratepayer support of a variety of programs that don’t have budgets or cost caps. There are mandates in the bill that call to de-carbonize the electricity sector by 2030, and it also asks Illinois to operate its own capacity market,” she said. “All of those things combined are just very concerning to us because of the cost.”
The Clean Energy Jobs Act was first introduced last year, but lawmakers have yet to take action on it.
Walling says she’s confident the bill will move forward this spring, especially with the backdrop of youth climate strikes that took place around the world in 2019.
“I think there is a push to act now, and act urgently on this issue, that the governor is hearing, that the Legislature is hearing,” Walling said. “I think this is something that will be a top priority to get done during this legislative session.”
Walling and Stonewater join “Chicago Tonight” in conversation.