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Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009 03:04 pm

Federal energy bill creates jobs and reduces pollution

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 would create 20,000 new jobs in Illinois and save its average household $193 a year by 2020, according to a new report released by Environment Illinois and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The federal bill, which passed the House of Representatives in June and now moves to the Senate, introduces new renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements. It also contains “cap and trade” — a cap on carbon emissions and a mechanism for companies to bid on emissions “credits” in a stock market-type system. According to the report, the legislation would also reduce Illinois’ annual carbon emissions by 9.7 million metric tons — equal to pollution from more than 1.7 million cars — by 2020.

Brian Spranger, a field associate for Environment Illinois, a citizen-funded environmental organization, confirms that Illinois has much to gain from the ACESA — including one of the highest potentials for increased job growth in the nation.

“The high job creation number has to do with not only our strong manufacturing potential and skilled workforce, but the age of a lot of our buildings in the state,” Spranger says. “Quite simply, we have a lot of leaky old buildings that waste a lot of energy. This means there’s a lot of work to be done, and thus, plenty of jobs to be created.”

Environment Illinois and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., are calling on the Senate to implement further policy improvements. The report estimates that stronger measures such as requiring utility companies to reduce their energy usage by at least 10 percent (the current version of the ACESA requests 5 percent with an optional 3 percent increase) would create 30,400 new jobs in Illinois, save its average household $252 a year and reduce annual carbon emissions by 16 million metric tons in the next 10 years.

In a released statement, Brian Granahan, a staff attorney and clean energy advocate with Environment Illinois, said:

“While the House bill is a critical first step in harnessing the power of energy efficiency, this report shows that we can save even more money, create more jobs and reduce more pollution.”

In the past few months, Illinois has also taken its own steps to increase energy efficiency. In late August, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Energy Efficient Building Act, which requires Illinois to adopt the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code for new residential construction. Additions, renovations or repairs to existing buildings need to meet IECC standards, which update every three years.

Earlier in July the governor signed a comprehensive energy package that introduces on-bill financing, a program that allows residential customers to fund energy measures by applying future savings to the cost of their “green” purchase, and mandates utilities to reduce natural gas use by 8.6 percent by 2020 [see, “Utility reform emerges from legislative chaos,” June 3].

Quinn also approved the Green Buildings Act, requiring state-funded building construction projects and major renovations of existing state facilities to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the United States Green Building Council, or an equivalent rating from a similar program, for efforts in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

For more information on Energy Efficiency in the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009: Impacts of Current Provisions and Opportunities to Enhance the Legislation, visit www.environmentilllinois.org.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.

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