SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Clean energy companies are finding a home in Illinois. A new report from the Environmental Law and Policy Center says more than 20,000 Illinoisans work in wind power and solar energy markets. Center Executive Director Howard Lerner predicts continued investments in renewable energy development will mean even more new business and increased economic activity.
"When we get the policies right with these clean, new technologies that are developing well, that's good for jobs," says Learner. "It's good for economic growth, it's good for our environment."
Lerner says jobs in the renewable energy sector include manufacturing, operations, installation, and professional service. The report says 237 Illinois companies are part of the solar industry supply chain and 170 are involved in the wind industry supply chain.
The report identifies 13 major wind companies with corporate headquarters in the Chicago region, which generate additional jobs in finance, insurance, real estate and law. Elise Houren, manager of government affairs with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, says a thriving renewable energy sector is good for the community and for attracting new business to the area.
"The business community is very engaged in sustainability and environmental-friendly activity and efforts," says Houren. "The new technology and advances that have already been made and will continue to be made are good for Chicagoland and the region, and continue to present economic opportunity."
Lerner says policies like the federal Production Tax Credit for wind and the Investment Tax Credit for solar are helping to drive business development. But he notes the state's renewable energy standard has stalled, because it was written to require a percentage of utility supply to come from renewable sources.
"With the movement toward municipal aggregation, the utilities' supply of the market has actually gone down," says Lerner. "Now the state has committed $30 million of funds for a new solar procurement, that's a good step in the right direction. But we need to get the state renewable energy standard fixed, so it works better."
According to the report, between 2011 and 2015, the solar business grew 153 percent in the state and Illinois ranks fifth nationally for wind power production.