Category Archives: Clean Energy

How Data Transparency Could Drive Energy and Cost Savings

Approximately 50% of Illinois’ carbon pollution is from electricity generation by coal, nuclear, and natural gas plants. These aging plants are polluting our air and water at the cost of our health and climate. Fortunately, Illinois continues to develop its clean energy economy that will build new opportunities, reclaim polluted land, and create thousands of jobs.

This vision for the state reached a historic milestone when the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) was passed in Illinois in December 2016 and went into effect on June 1, 2017. Check out the footer of this post for more information about FEJA and the benefits it can bring to Illinois.*

Along with Illinois’ statewide clean energy plan, the City of Chicago is establishing itself as a clean energy leader.  The City remains committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and is 40% of the way to achieving its 2025 goal of a 26-28% greenhouse gas emission reduction. On April 9, 2017, Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago announced that the City’s municipal buildings will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.

In October 2017, Mayor Emanuel proposed an update to the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, which has been used to evaluate and improve energy efficiency in buildings across the city since 2014. The proposal strengthens the original Ordinance by making buildings’ energy usage easier to understand and more accessible to the public. The update would specifically apply to buildings 50, 000 square feet or more, which account for fewer than 1% of the buildings in the city. Despite the small quantity, these buildings represented 22% of energy use by all buildings when the Ordinance was passed.

The original Ordinance requires that building owners and managers annually measure and report their building’s energy use. Based on various criteria such as property size and number of occupants the building is given an ENERGY STAR score on a scale from 1 to 100. The Ordinance update will express the ENERGY STAR as a 4-star rating (see mock image below) that will be prominently displayed in the building and made available at the time of sale or lease.

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The new 4-star rating system is an easy way to express the building’s energy efficiency.

The proposed addition to the Energy Benchmarking Ordinance will require no additional measuring or reporting by property owners or managers. Furthermore, there is not an obligation to make improvements based on a building’s score. The new strategies, however, enable current and prospective owners, residents or businesses to make informed decisions about operating costs related to energy in the building. The system may encourage more consideration of the many cost-saving energy efficiency programs available in Illinois. Incentive and rebate programs are available through major utility companies like ComEd and People’s Gas so that energy improvements can be made at little to no cost. The Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act also will increase funding for these programs so that residents across the state can benefit from these improvements. psp take action button2

Chicago residents, contact your alderman to show your support of the Updated Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance which will empower the public to make more informed choices about their energy usage.

Creating more transparency and accessibility to energy use data is an important step in cutting energy costs and fossil fuel pollution. By supporting the new Updated Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, we can ensure that building managers, owners, businesses, and residents have a clearer understanding of how their energy dollars are used. Collectively, we can make Illinois a national leader in sustainability and energy conservation efforts.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————–*FEJA is the result of years of grassroots organizing driven by thousands of community members with the support of advocacy partners and clean energy companies.

Key Benefits of FEJA

  • Invests $5 billion in energy efficiency programs to reduce families’ electricity bills
  • Allocates $180-220 million a year towards the purchase of energy produced by renewable sources
  • Directs $189 million, plus $10 million annually, to incentivize solar development and fund job training programs, including those for economically disadvantaged communities in every part of the state
  • Reduces air pollution by diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels by an estimate of 32 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030

 

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Metro East Mayors Sign the Mayor’s 100% Clean Energy Endorsement

Local leadership on clean energy is more important than ever. With this being said we cannot overlook the significance of  three Mayors in the Metro East taking bold steps playing a  powerful role in making 100% Clean Energy a reality and using their voices and influence to help spread the message.

On August 11, Granite City Mayor, Ed Hagnauer, became the first downstate mayor to sign the Sierra Club’s Mayor’s for 100% Clean Energy Endorsement — an initiative calling on all mayors — regardless of political party, from big cities and small towns – to support a vision of 100% clean and renewable energy in their cities, towns, and communities, and across the country.. 

Mayor Hagnauer has worked closely with the Granite City Cool Cities Committee to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in municipal operations since 2012. Many of the initiatives the City has undertaken such as replacing an aging municipal fleet with fuel efficient hybrid models have been significant steps towards reaching these reductions.  Mayor Hagnauer commented that “it has always been our goal to be as energy efficient as possible, transitioning to 100% renewable energy, like wind and solar will protect our community from pollution, create new jobs and local economic opportunities.”

To date, Edwardsville’s Mayor Hal Patton and Alton Mayor Brant Walker have also signed on. Mayor Walker commented that “In light of increased flooding events the City of Alton has endured during my administration our resolve is strengthened to a build a more resilient community and transitioning to 100% renewable energy is a logical step in achieving this.”

We are witness to disasters happening all across the country and the globe that threaten lives, our energy security and public health.Local action to mitigate these threats is the foundation on which the transition to 100% clean energy is built upon. We commend the Mayors of the Metro East region for their leadership towards this goal.

VICTORY! Illinois has a budget, and it includes Solar For All Funds

The unprecedented lack of a state budget caused serious harm across Illinois, and especially in disadvantaged communities.  We’re thrilled that the State of Illinois has a budget at long last, and we can begin to repair that harm and provide real opportunities for people who need it most in the clean energy economy through the Illinois Solar For All program.

It almost didn’t happen that way. Last week, Governor Rauner proposed a budget that could have eliminated all of the funding for Illinois Solar For All, and Sierra Club sprang into action. More than 1,800 Sierra Club members and supporters reached out to their legislators in Springfield before and during the 4th of July holiday, and it had an impact. Legislators rejected Rauner’s proposal, and approved a new proposal that did not sweep any funds away from Illinois Solar For All.

Sierra Club joined this effort in support of environmental justice partners in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, especially the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and Faith in Place, who envisioned the Illinois Solar For All program and are now working to create the new statewide training programs that will begin later this year.  Sierra Club volunteers lobbied their state legislators all spring to prepare for this showdown, including in-district visits to lawmakers’ offices and many calls; and, nearly 50 making the trip to Springfield for a lobby day in April to protect the funds.

The new Illinois Solar For All program is a key component of the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA). The program will train and employ residents of low income communities, citizens returning from the criminal justice system, and foster care graduates in the clean energy industry that is soon to take off in Illinois thanks to the FEJA.  

With everything Trump is doing to make America dependent on fossil fuels again, it is essential that Illinois chart a course for 100% clean energy future that includes everyone.  The Illinois Solar For All program is part of a great start, and thanks to your action and the great work of our partners in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, we are on course for a brighter future.

 

Chicago Announces All Public Buildings Will Be Powered With 100% Clean Energy

Sierra Club Illinois Chapter staff and volunteers joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week to announce that the Windy City would transition all of its municipal buildings and operations to 100% clean, renewable energy. That currently makes Chicago’s the largest fleet of public buildings in the country to commit to clean energy. 

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This victory would not have been possible without the work of so many Sierra Club volunteers and partners who worked for years to push Chicago to move beyond dirty coal and retire the notorious Fisk and Crawford coal plants. Now, Chicago takes the next step.

“Leadership on clean energy and climate change is not coming from Washington—quite the opposite. It has never been more important that local communities step up where national leaders step back. Chicago is pushing forward. We won’t let Donald Trump’s attempts to enrich his fossil-fuel-industry cronies deter us here in Chicago,” said Tony Fuller, Sierra Club Chicago Group Co-Chair.

By committing to power every city, park, public school, city college, and public housing building with 100% clean, renewable energy, Chicago is helping to bring the benefits of the clean energy economy to every neighborhood in the city.

100% clean energy means more than just wind and solar projects for Chicago. This commitment opens doors to new economic opportunities in every Chicago neighborhood—especially where they are needed most. A job on a solar energy project can mean new skills and a new career pathway for a Chicagoan who needs it most. Scaled citywide, these projects can help thousands of individuals and communities reap the benefits of a rapidly growing global economic sector.

Working with community groups and labor unions is critical to our efforts. Groups like Little Village Environmental Justice Organization are ensuring that these opportunities reach everyone. Our brothers and sisters at IBEW are actively preparing workers for the good-paying jobs that will be created.

Chicago’s commitment to 100% clean energy also will bring cleaner air to a city where too many residents struggle with asthma and other respiratory diseases. Pollution from coal plants near and far contributes to smog and soot levels that can send kids to the emergency room just for playing outside. With this commitment to clean energy, Chicago is putting its money where our lungs are.

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Sierra Club Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Shedd Aquarium for the City’s announcement of its pledge to move to 100% clean energy for all city buildings.

Clean energy is healthier for the city’s pocketbook, too. Although wind and solar projects require upfront investment, once built, their fuel sources are free. Chicago taxpayers will be protected from spikes in the prices of conventional fuels, saving a huge amount of money in the long run.

Moving to 100% clean energy is clearly a winner for our future, but unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Our President, Donald Trump, seems intent on doing everything in his power to reverse the progress we have made as a country to act on climate change and move to clean energy. He has essentially erased America’s Clean Power Plan, and handed the keys to the EPA to those who would take it apart.

We all dream of the day when all of our power will come from clean, safe, renewable energy. And thanks to advances in technology and decreasing costs, it’s time to stop dreaming, and begin making that 100% clean energy vision a reality. This announcement is a big step as Chicago starts building toward that goal for our community, and we will all be healthier, wealthier, and happier for it.

We applaud the City of Chicago for their leadership in this bold commitment, we look forward to working with the people of Chicago to show the world that we are indeed Ready for 100% clean energy.

 

Join Our Effort to Get All of Chicago Ready For 100% Clean Energy!

Volunteer: To learn more and join the team Sign up here

Join our upcoming events:

 

  • Rogers Park Solar Forum: Thursday, April 20, 7 p.m. Sullivan High School, 6631 N Bosworth Ave
  • Chicago March for Science: Saturday, April 22, 10 a.m., Rally at Congress Pkwy

  • Sierra Club Chicago at Science in Chicago Expo: Noon to 3 p.m., Field Museum
  • People’s Climate March: Saturday, April 29, Noon, Federal Plaza
  • Sierra Club New Volunteer Open House: Tuesday, June 6, 6 p.m., 70 E. Lake St. RSVP here

Trump’s Great Leap Backward on Climate: Time for Illinois to Lead

Chicago, IL – Today, President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order to begin the process of repealing several Obama-era actions tackling the climate crisis and protecting clean air and water, including steps to begin the process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan, roll back Oil and Gas New Source Performance Standards, rescind NEPA guidance that directs agencies to account for the climate crisis, and end efforts to reform the broken federal coal leasing program.

The Clean Power Plan protects the health of Illinois families and communities by curbing dangerous carbon pollution and reducing other toxic pollutants like mercury, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide.

The EPA has estimated that, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan would prevent 150,000 asthma attacks and up to 6,600 premature deaths annually, providing between $55 billion to $93 billion of benefits per year. These climate and health benefits far outweigh the estimated annual costs of the plan, which are only $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion in 2030.

EPA also projects that in 2030 when the plan is fully implemented, electricity bills would be roughly 8 percent lower than they would been without the actions in state plans. That would save Americans about $8 on an average monthly residential electricity bill.

Trump’s announcement comes on the same day of the release of the 2016 Solar Jobs Census, which shows continued growth in solar employment in Illinois.

 

In Response, Jack Darin, Illinois Chapter Director, Released the Following Statement:

“President Trump is proposing a great leap backward, hoping to reverse the progress we are making in Illinois and the United States toward clean energy for all, but it won’t be that easy.

“Today’s action may be just what oil and coal corporations ordered, but it flies in the face of science, the law, and the growing move toward clean energy in our economy and in states like Illinois. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that carbon pollution threatens our health and our planet, and the USEPA is required to reduce it. Trump can repeal the Clean Power Plan, but he is legally obligated to replace it.

“Illinois is on course to become a national leader in wind power, solar energy, and conservation programs, and we should not let President Trump’s crusade against science and our legal and moral obligation to act on climate change determine our future. Today Trump is reversing federal efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but he cannot stop states like Illinois from moving forward with plans of their own. States that continue with efforts to limit carbon pollution will now be more likely to attract the jobs, economic investment, and cleaner air that offered by the steadily growing clean energy economy. In fact, new data released today shows that Illinois’ solar economy is growing, with 3,718 solar jobs at 233 Illinois solar companies, including 235 new jobs added between 2015 and 2016.

“Over the last two years, over 30,000 Illinoisans have contacted Governor Rauner urging him to develop a strong and just plan to reduce carbon emissions in Illinois. Today we renew our call for Governor Rauner to prepare that plan to act on climate change. It has never been more important for Illinois to take the lead on reducing the emissions that are causing the climate change that threatens our health, our agricultural economy, and all of our communities. With so much at risk from climate change, and so much to gain from clean energy solutions, it’s time for Illinois to step up while Trump leaps backward.”

 

People’s Climate Movement–Chicagoland

Join us Today! January 23rd from 3:30 to 5:30

The People’s Climate Movement is calling for 100 hours of action in response to the inauguration. Sierra Club Valley of the Fox is joining nearby Sierra Club groups in a rally at Rep. Peter Roskam’s office to let him know that his constituents and neighbors want action on climate change. If you want to do something NOW to have a voice in our future, come to this rally. We will have speakers, chanting, and marching. Make some signs. Have your kids make some signs.

Action nourishes hope.

January 23 – Monday – 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
People’s Climate Movement-Chicagoland
Rally at Peter Roskam’s Office
2700 International Drive, West Chicago, IL

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Questions? Email Barbara Hill

Illinois Budget Crisis Threatens Ratepayer Protection and Clean Energy Programs

While the Illinois budget crisis wreaks havoc on social programs across the state, the budget impasse also poses a major threat to three other major funds. These funds, each funded by ratepayers, not tax dollars, that are the primary funding for Illinois’ programs to protect the most vulnerable, lower bills through energy efficiency, and create jobs in renewable energy projects. Each of these funds have been specifically targeted during this budget crisis. We must act together to ensure that these important resources are protected in this time of crisis.

psp take action button2SB3382 and HB5791 will protect our most vulnerable, create good jobs in clean energy, and reduce pollution. SB3383 and HB5971 both ask for full funding and protection for the the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (EEPS) Fund, while SB3383 also asks for full funding and protection for the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Renewable Energy Resources Fund (RERF).

1. Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) This fund is a mix of ratepayer and federal funds, and helps low income utility customers pay gas and electric bills to avoid the shut-off of service. Funds are also used to help these customers save energy through weatherization projects. More than 300,000 vulnerable Illinois households use LIHEAP to assist with energy costs. This includes seniors, disabled persons and low-income families. LIHEAP is funded by federal funds and a charge on utility bills – no state tax dollars are provided. The program consists of two funds – the Supplemental Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Block Grant Fund In 2015, the LIHEAP program was targeted for elimination. SB 3383 would protect both LIHEAP funds in Fiscal Year 2017 by appropriating the full amount of anticipated funds collected from ratepayers and received from the federal government to protect our most vulnerable.

2. Renewable Energy Resources Fund (RERF) This fund, held at the Illinois Power Agency, is collected from alternative electric suppliers and is supposedly dedicated to buying renewable energy as part of Illinois’ electric suppliers. Payments from these alternative suppliers are part of their required compliance with Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires a certain percentage of each supplier’s energy portfolio to come from renewable sources. To date these funds have been used to buy renewable energy credits from newly constructed solar energy projects – directly creating good jobs in Illinois. Both the pending Clean Jobs Bill (HB2607/SB1485) and ComEd’s Future Energy Plan (HB3328/SB1879) depend on RERF dollars for a new low-income community solar program. No state tax dollars are used on these programs. They are entirely collected from electric suppliers. In 2015, $98 million was swept from the RERF. SB 3383 would protect RERF funds in Fiscal Year 2017 by appropriating $120M, the approximate current balance in the Fund, to create jobs in solar energy projects.

3. Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (EEPS) Fund The Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) at DCEO is used by ComEd and Ameren to help homes, businesses, and local governments save energy. These projects have lowered electric bills by well over $1 billion in the last decade and created good jobs modernizing and retrofitting homes, businesses, and local government buildings with energy-saving technologies. No state tax dollars are used on these programs. They are entirely collected from ratepayers and used by ComEd and Ameren on energy efficiency projects. In 2015, these funds were targeted for sweeps. SB 3383 would protect EEPS funds in Fiscal Year 2017 by appropriating up to $125M, or the maximum amount collected from ratepayers, to help lower electric bills through energy conservation.

DON’T SWEEP AWAY ILLINOIS’ CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE

Act Now — Support SB 3383 and HB5791