A battle is raging for the energy future of the nation’s fifth-largest economy, where advocates have embarked on a massive effort to fix and expand Illinois’ troubled renewable portfolio standard (RPS) amidst a major debate about climate change, renewables, nuclear and energy efficiency.
Environmentalists and the renewables sector have fought to fix the state’s broken RPS law since at least 2011. Although previous campaigns seemed promising, they’ve always seen defeat – snatched from the jaws of victory. At press time, supporters were cautiously optimistic that 2015 will be the year it turns around.
The reason for this renewed enthusiasm is that the RPS effort was combined into the Clean Jobs Bill, H.B.2607, a broad proposal to expand energy-efficiency opportunities and possibly cap carbon pollution. The legislation has broad support and is being offered as Illinois’ answer to federal carbon-emission limits. The bill is championed by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, a wide-ranging group of energy companies and environmentalists, as well as labor, faith and ratepayer groups.
With support from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the effort was launched in early February. It was the opening salvo in a debate that mirrors similar energy policy discussions playing out in other states and in Congress.