SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House Energy and Environment Committee advanced a pair of energy bills that would overhaul the state’s energy industry to the House floor Monday, with local Rep. Curtis J. Tarver's support.
House Bill 804, otherwise known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act, or CEJA, would put Illinois on track to 100% renewable energy by 2050. HB 2640, known as the Path to 100 Act, also passed the committee Monday night. It would increase the cap on energy bills from about 2 to 4% to provide funding for renewable projects, avoiding what its advocates call the “solar cliff.”
Sponsored by North Side Rep. Ann Williams (D-11th), CEJA would increase development of renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar power, commit Illinois to cutting carbon from the power sector by 2030, reduce pollution from gas and diesel vehicles by electrifying the transportation sector, and create jobs and economic opportunity across the state, according to sponsors.
Both bills moved out of committee on 18-11 votes after hours of discussion on Monday.
Opponents of CEJA said they are ready for the transition to clean energy, but are concerned about the reliability and affordability for utility companies and customers if CEJA becomes law.
Reached for comment, Tarver emailed, "I am proud to support the first step in moving CEJA. Many of the issues and policies covered in the bill are long overdue. Several hours of testimony made it clear that there is quite a bit of work ahead to have any likelihood of passing this bill.
"I will continue to be an active participant in these discussions especially as it relates to ensuring that there are significant entrepreneurial opportunities for people of color — not merely jobs. There must be identifiable support to start, scale and sustain businesses headed by people of color in this industry.
"My hope is this will help our communities not only from an economic standpoint but also in eliminating instances of environmental racism."
Tarver represents South Kenwood east of Woodlawn Avenue and Hyde Park east of Ellis Avenue in Springfield.
Williams said she is committed to working with the opposition before bringing the bill back to committee with amendments. In the previous General Assembly, lawmakers considered folding CEJA, the Path to 100 and other energy legislation into a massive energy regulation omnibus bill.
The bill would create Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs, which the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition describes as a network of frontline organizations that provide direct and sustained support for minority and disadvantaged communities, including job opportunities.
CEJA was crafted with a focus on equity aimed to tackle climate change concerns while also addressing social and environmental injustices in Illinois, Williams said. Lawmakers also had a joint committee hearing with the Economic Justice and Equity Committee scheduled this week to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion within CEJA.
“We don’t just want electric vehicle charging stations, rooftop and community solar, and energy efficiency projects completed in Black neighborhoods and communities. We want Black workers installing them, and we want Black-owned businesses designing the projects and getting them built,” said the Rev. Tony Pierce, Board President of Illinois People’s Action, who testified Monday.
“CEJA is the only comprehensive energy bill that delivers on that promise, and after the devastating effects of the pandemic, we need these good-paying jobs now more than ever,” he said.
The 900-page bill also includes stricter utility accountability provisions including ending formula rate hikes to provide more oversight of the rate making process, creating a series of best practices for utilities and improving energy efficiency through fixed resource requirements.
Illinois’ energy grid is part of a multistate transmission entity. Northern Illinois is part of PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that procures energy and capacity, which means that the power generators are paid in advance to ensure that the energy capacity will be available when it's needed at peak usage times for years in advance.
CEJA would include fixed resource requirements, which means that instead of relying on the regional market for capacity procurement, Illinois would have its own state procurement process for the PJM territory. The bill would not pull the state from that grid, but would remove it from the multistate capacity procurement auction to allow the state more authority in setting its own energy procurement goals.
Illinois ratepayers currently spend about $1.8 billion dollars in the PJM marketplace for capacity payments for fossil fuel plants, Williams said. Changing the capacity procurement process would allow the state to emphasize cleaner energy for capacity payments.
Patrick Evans with the Illinois Energy Association said he questions whether the bill will actually achieve what it is trying to achieve. Evans said he has concerns about the rate impact and an emissions fee included in the bill.
Many of CEJA’s programs are funded through fees placed on carbon-emitting energy sources. That includes fees paid quarterly by fossil fuel emitters based on the share of carbon they emit. That money would go to the Energy Community Reinvestment Fund to pay for the various aspects of the bill, with a revenue goal of $400 million annually through 2025.
“We can’t find a plant that would be able to pay the fee and be a viable business in Illinois,” Evans said. “We don’t believe that fee will be paid. The power plants will opt to close.”
Williams said the bill is essentially requiring carbon-emitting plants to pay remediation costs for pollution.
“This is a reasonable way to ask the polluters to pay, not the ratepayers, and by shifting the burden from the ratepayers, to the generators that actually emit carbon pollution into the air,” Williams said.
Herald staff contributed from Chicago. Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.