It’s not electricity that’s in the air around Illinois these days - it’s efficiency. A new report from Environment Illinois (EI) titled “Saving Energy, Growing Jobs” highlights the many Illinois businesses involved in the efficiency industry, as well as the energy and money the state can save by continuing the push for energy efficiency. The report also lays out the argument for future increases in efficiency across Illinois, and how energy providers can continue to help. EI Director Max Muller discussed the plan yesterday along with State Representative Elaine Nekritz and other efficiency advocates, and talked about Nekritz’s pending legislation that could help ease restrictions on efficiency efforts.
The report describes efficiency efforts as a quick, cheap and effective way to reduce air pollution and the impact of global warming. Despite the establishment of the 2007 llinois's Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard effectively requiring the state to increase efficiency by 2% a year, “we’re still leaving a lot of benefits from efficiency on the table,” said Nekritz. Currently, energy companies have their budgets capped in respect to how much they can spend on efficiency efforts. HB 3055, sponsored by Nekritz, will relax restrictions on those caps, and HB 1422 will allow the Illinois Power Agency to spend money on efficiency projects, both of which Nekritz says will save ratepayers
There are currently at least 330 businesses and over 700 retail outlets focusing on energy efficiency in Illinois, according to the EI report. Those companies, including operations like Sieben Energy Associates of Chicago, make up part of the over 2 million American jobs employed in green energy and efficiency. Craig Sieben runs the energy auditing company, and describes the efficiency movement as energy’s “cheapest, fastest resource.
There are barriers to acheving it. Transforming policies is the best way to overcome those barriers...These policies were established when energy was cheap - that’s not the way it is any more.”
The report comes just days after Governor Quinn released his own energy plan, which also focuses on efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs; a plan Muller described as “a very good thing.” However, Muller says Quinn’s plan could be better, if it includes Rep. Nekritz’s bill. “It’s my position that the state should not pass a new energy policy without including common sense, cost effective, economically stimulating policy.”
The Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter recently posted an editorial piece to its own website hailing Quinn’s plan as “right on the mark.” Bills like Nekritz’ s and similar initiatives would help support a “ smart grid,” where efficiency efforts are bolstered by renewable energy, and green energy can be purchased from projects like rooftop solar panels wind turbines.