URBANA — Environmental advocates want Illinois to go clean — not partly, but all the way to 100 percent renewable energy — by 2050, and they're rallying behind new legislation they hope will get the state there.
"This bill is huge. It touches on a lot," said Amanda Pankau with Prairie Rivers Network, one of more than 200 organizations, businesses and community leaders that make up the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition.
The coalition is throwing its support behind two bills introduced this week in Springfield, House Bill 3624 and Senate Bill 2132, both of which are packed with initiatives directed toward achieving 100 percent renewable energy in Illinois within the next 30 years.
Along with state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, a sponsor, and state Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, local officials and others with the coalition will highlight key details of the proposed legislation at 11 a.m. today at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District's bus barn, 1101 E University Ave, U. Similar events are being held around the state.
Pankau said the comprehensive bill would build on the success of the Future Energy Jobs Act that former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law in 2016, spurring solar and other clean-energy development and job creation throughout the state.
Pankau said it wasn't until the coalition got behind the Future Energy Jobs Act that Illinois started making significant progress toward its goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.
Illinois had that goal for years but no plans or policies to achieve it, she said, until the Future Energy Jobs Act passed through the Legislature with bipartisan support.
"And this Clean Jobs Coalition is a large reason why that happened," she said, referring to that group mustering the necessary political support.
But the coalition doesn't believe the 25-percent-by-2025 standard is enough, she added, so members have been working on this new package of initiatives to get Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy.
Last year, the coalition carried out a "Listen. Lead. Share." campaign of more than 60 local community conversations on energy policy, where input was gathered from everyday citizens as well as officials.
Those conversations helped shape the four pillars of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which are moving Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, reducing the equivalent of 1 million gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, achieving a carbon-free power sector by 2030, and promoting jobs and economic opportunity.
Pankau said the input from the community conversations was invaluable.
"Those were in both urban and rural areas and environmental-justice communities and communities of color," she said. "We used that input to guide what those policies should look like."
During his campaign, Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed his support for 100 percent renewable energy and endorsed the call to move Illinois toward 100 percent by 2050.
Examining the four pillars of the Clean Energy Jobs Act
1. Promote Jobs and Economic Opportunity
— Creates Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs, a network of frontline organizations that provide direct and sustained support for minority and disadvantaged communities.
— Provides preferences to companies that take action to ensure equitable representation in Illinois' clean energy workforce.
— Creates a contractor incubator program, focusing on development of underserved businesses in the clean energy sector.
2. Move Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050
— Build more than 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines across Illinois by 2030, generating more than $30 billion in new infrastructure in the state.
— Taps into the falling cost of wind and solar, lowering costs for consumers.
— Expands Solar for All, and ensures people have access to solar in their community.
— Expands goals for energy efficiency on the electric and gas side, to lower costs.
— Directs utilities to evaluate lower-cost alternatives to infrastructure modernization.
3. Reduce equivalent of 1 million gas- and diesel-powered vehicles
— Empowers local communities to develop Community Energy and Climate Plans to drive comprehensive local investment in energy, transportation, workforce and environmental projects.
— Creates a new Beneficial Electrification initiative to incentivize electric vehicle charging, focused on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that create local health impacts.
— Creates the Electric Vehicle Access for All program to ensure all Illinois residents can benefit from electric vehicles, and supports the creation of low-income electric vehicle car-sharing and "last-mile" electric shuttles to serve transit deserts.
4. Achieve a carbon-free power sector by 2030
— Directs the Illinois EPA to begin a comprehensive stakeholder process that prioritizes carbon reductions in impacted communities and reduces harmful pollution from power plants to zero by 2030.
— Creates Clean Energy Empowerment Zones to support communities and workers who are economically impacted by the decline of fossil-fuel generation.
— Directs the Illinois Power Authority to procure clean energy and capacity resources to achieve customer savings and expand renewables investment.