- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Lawmakers want to increase the share of clean energy consumed in Illinois with a bill they say will bring jobs to the state.

A bill, announced on Thursday, creates new standards for Illinois utilities to use efficiency measures to reduce electricity demand 20 percent by 2025. It also sets a higher figure for renewable energy purchased by updating the state’s regulation for the production of energy from renewable, such as wind, solar and biodiesel.

Proponents said the measure will add 32,000 jobs every year to the state due to the higher demand for renewable sources like wind and solar. The impact the bill could have on the coal industry in Illinois remains to be seen, but at least one downstate lawmaker fears increased regulation will hurt coal-related jobs.

Attempts were unsuccessful Thursday to reach several energy companies for comment about the effect the regulations could have.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner released a statement, saying he will “carefully consider any legislation that crosses his desk.”

The bill “sets Illinois energy policy” and calls for increasing state renewable energy standards to 35 percent by 2030, said State Rep. Elaine Nekritz. The current standard is 20 percent by 2025. The Democrat from Northbrook said the change will bring 32,000 jobs annually to Illinois after standards are implemented.

“It’s not a band aid approach,” she said. “This policy can serve us for decades, even generations.”

The bill also establishes a system for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to create a market-based system for meeting federal carbon emission pollution standards set by the federal government. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed cutting carbon dioxide emission from emissions from existing coal plants across the country 30 percent by 2030.

In the state, about 4,000 people are directly employed by the coal industry, according the Illinois Coal Association.

This bill is the “best thing we could do for consumers” while also meeting federal clean air standards, said state Rep. Mike Fortner, a Republican from West Chicago.

About 46 percent of the energy produced in Illinois comes from coal, said state Rep. Brandon Phelps.

The Democrat from Harrisburg said the coal industry provides desperately needed jobs in his district. Regulations that would impact coal, in particular at the federal level, would have huge consequences downstate.

“It’s absolutely gong to devastate the coal industry,” Phelps said. “It’s too far reaching.”

___

The bill is HB2607.

Online: www.ilga.gov


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