Not counting its solar resources, Illinois has the potential to generate 88 percent of its current electricity generation from renewable sources of energy – enough to power 15 million homes, according to a new report released by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. The report shows that a national standard increasing the use of Renewable Energy to 20 percent of the U.S. electricity supply by 2020 would benefit both the economy and environment.Chicago, Illinois – April 18, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “The good news is that renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power, are coming online in Illinois,” said Diane E. Brown, executive director of the Illinois PIRG Education Fund. “The bad news is that more than 99 percent of our electricity in Illinois still comes from dirty and dangerous sources of energy.” The issues are economic as well as environmental. The solar and wind power industries did over US$10 billion dollars worth of business in 2002. “The challenge is whether Illinois will continue to be proactive in adopting Renewable Energy like solar electricity, which develops local businesses and creates high-paying jobs, or be a bystander and see most benefits go to other states that have more aggressive policies,” said Mark Burger of Spire Solar Chicago. Pointing to recent price spikes in the natural gas market, the Illinois PIRG Education Fund urged Congress and the Bush administration to take steps to protect consumers from future price fluctuations and noted that increasing the percentage of electricity generated by Renewable Energy could save consumers money in the long run. “By diversifying the electricity mix to include Renewable Energy, consumers would have alternative choices when prices rise rather than being held captive by the whims of a volatile fossil fuel market,” said Brown. Illinois’ economy stands to gain from the development of its renewable resources. Already, NEG Micon, a company that builds wind turbines and wind farms, has based its North American headquarters in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. NEG Micon is the preferred supplier of wind turbines for what will be the state’s first wind farm near Tiskilwa and Princeton, Illinois. “This is an exciting time, because the Crescent Ridge Wind Farm is not going to be the last wind power project NEG Micon will build for the people and economy of Illinois,” said Michelle Montague, spokeswoman for the company. The Illinois PIRG Education Fund report cited examples of ways Illinois currently uses Renewable Energy, including the Chicago Solar Partnership, a program that brings solar power into Chicago’s public schools. The Illinois PIRG Education Fund report made the following policy recommendations: o Create state and national “renewable portfolio standards” (RPS) to require an increase in the amount of electricity from renewable sources of energy. Illinois PIRG, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Illinois Environmental Council, Citizen Action/Illinois and others are working to pass a state requirement of 15 percent by 2020. o Establish a public benefits fund to provide funds for energy efficiency programs, investments in promising Renewable Energy technologies, and low-income assistance programs. A national fund would provide matching funds to the states to help enhance Illinois’ programs. o Expand and extend the Production Tax Credit for builders of Renewable Energy for at least five years and include wind, solar, geothermal energy, and clean biomass-specifically excluding municipal solid waste incinerators. “Today’s report provides more evidence of the tremendous economic development potential of Renewable Energy for Illinois,” said Barry Matchett, a Policy Advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Wind energy developers currently have over US$1.5 billion of projects in the pipeline in Illinois, projects that would bring royalty payments to landowners, property taxes to struggling counties, and clean air for everybody. Per the report, the Illinois Legislature should immediately adopt SB 25, implementing a Renewable Energy Standard of 5 percent by 2010 and 15 percent by 2020.” The full report can be found at the Illinois PIRG link below.