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Wednesday, May 27, 2009 04:58 pm

Take power into your own hands

City Water Light and Power’s new Dallman 4 coal-fired power plant is going online and testing of pollution levels will continue for several months. Although the power plant nears completion, important work remains to complete the clean energy agreement between CWLP and the Sierra Club. Involvement by CWLP customers and support from the city council are increasingly important.

The agreement received national attention because it mirrors what needs to be done globally. CWLP agreed to take action in four areas: 1) closing its oldest, least efficient coal plant, 2) reducing pollution from existing plants, 3) investing in renewable energy and 4) increasing energy efficiency and conservation projects.

Important benchmarks have already been reached, including the purchase of 120 megawatts of wind power capacity, half of which will be used for state government buildings. The aging Lakeside plant sits dormant and will soon close. New energy efficiency programs that help customers reduce their monthly utility bill are being developed. The refrigerator rebate and recycling program is retiring outdated energy hogs.

After the Dallman 4 plant goes online, a portion of excess power sales will help fund new money-saving efficiency projects. The city council should reaffirm its commitment to set aside a portion of those power sales to fund programs for CWLP customers before the money is diverted into the general city budget.

Residents can increase their clean energy use through several programs including Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). The Renewable Energy Choice program allows customers to purchase RECs on their monthly bill or individually as carbon offsets that expand the market for clean energy sources. A widely promoted program would increase support for renewables.

Additionally, CWLP should announce a timeline for specific projects to reduce emissions from their Dallman 1-3 coal plants.

Americans have long asked for a stronger voice in decision-making about our energy future and the climate change crisis gives new urgency for the public to take power into our own hands. The agreement helps facilitate public input as new programs are developed through a series of Smart Energy Forums. The next one is 6 p.m. June 11 at the Illinois National Bank Conference Center.

The Mayor’s Cool Cities Advisory Council is an outlet for citizens, businesses, and schools to participate in reducing citywide global warming emissions in areas beyond CWLP operations.

Springfield residents can be proud as our city receives national recognition as a clean energy leader. Whether we continue to make progress depends on renewed support and participation from citizens in deciding the direction of CWLP.

Will Reynolds chairs the Energy and Climate Change Committee of the Sierra Club Sangamon Valley Group. Contact him at eccc@thereisaway.us.

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