Watch now: Competing clean energy proposals emerge in Springfield | Government and Politics

Watch now: Competing clean energy proposals emerge in Springfield

Watch now: Competing clean energy proposals emerge in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Lawmakers, lobbyists and energy industry officials in Springfield agree on the obvious — the future of energy generation involves moving away from dirty fossil fuels towards clean sources like wind and solar. 

What’s less clear is how to get there. 

About a half-dozen competing clean energy proposals have emerged over the past few months during the General Assembly’s spring session with several groups, including environmental activists, labor unions and utilities like Ameren and Commonwealth Edison backing their own plans. 

There’s a growing sense of urgency as the state continues to fall short of its clean energy goals, with renewable sources accounting for about 8% of the energy generated in Illinois. This is a far cry from the goal set out in the last major energy bill, the Future Energy Jobs Act of 2016, which was 25% renewables by 2025.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also outlined a goal of being carbon-free by 2050. President Joe Biden during a global climate summit this month also announced plans to cut America’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

Not to mention the status of Exelon’s aging fleet of six nuclear power plants in northern Illinois, which provide good-paying jobs and generate clean energy but are constantly facing closure due to market pressures. 

An audit commissioned by Pritzker’s office, released last week, found that two of the plants may need a public subsidy of up to $350 million over five years in order to stay open. 

President Biden’s two-day virtual climate summit has wrapped up. World leaders, activists and organizations from around the world took part. Friday’s focus: the need for new, more cost-effective technologies to fight climate change. President Biden says this could be an opportunity to improve economies and boost job creation. "This is a moment for all of us to build better economies for our children, our grandchildren and all of us to thrive, to thrive and not just now, but beyond for the next generations," he said. "Nations that work together to invest in a cleaner economy will reap rewards for their citizens."Some countries have made more aggressive pledges to reduce planet-heating emissions. But the world is still not on track to meet the main Paris accord goals. 

Lawmakers, in a hearing Thursday, criticized the report, which was heavily redacted. Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee chairman Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, called it "unprofessional and very troubling" that lawmakers were not given the full picture. 

Pritzker is expected to unveil his own clean energy bill as early as next week, adding more content to an already-crowded marketplace of ideas.

"I think the governor probably should work with the General Assembly versus telling us what he wants to do because at the end of the day, the General Assembly writes the laws," Hastings said. "He signs them, obviously, but it should be a collaborative approach."

Most involved with the process agree that no one proposal is likely to pass. It will instead likely be include pieces of each proposal. 

Easily the most ambitious proposal is the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), the 900-page bill that sets the lofty goal of making Illinois carbon-neutral by 2030 and 100% renewable by 2050. 

The goal would be to build 40 million new solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines across Illinois. The plan also calls for the electrification of the state’s transportation system.  

The proposal would take a community-based approach, aiming to create clean energy sector jobs in underserved communities, especially communities of color, while also including provisions for a "just transition" in communities impacted economically by the closure of coal plants.

"This is a transition that is already underway," said Jack Darin, chapter director of the Illinois Sierra Club and a proponent of CEJA. "Coal plants have already closed across our state. We have the largest owner of coal plants in Illinois, Vistra, has announced that all their plants will be closed by 2027. So, this transition is happening but it’s not happening in a coordinated way and it’s not happening in a way that is doing anything to care for the workers of the communities that are left behind with these plants close."

A similar "Path to 100" proposal, which also aims to get the state to 100% renewable by 2050, is being backed by advocates in the renewable industry.

Another proposal that’s gained some steam is the Clean Union Jobs Act (CUJA), a labor-backed proposal that would have organized labor take the lead on building out the state’s renewable energy infrastructure.

The Radford’s Run wind farm near Maroa is shown in 2017. Proposed legislation known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act would increase development of renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar power.

The proposal also includes subsidies for Exelon’s nuclear plants, which employ more than 28,000 union workers. 

Exelon is the parent company of Commonwealth Edison, long an influential statehouse presence. But, the company has been somewhat sidelined as it is embroiled in a bribery scheme that alleged that the utility awarded jobs and contracts to associates of a top state official — identified as former House Speaker Michael Madigan — “with intent to influence and reward” the official.

With that, any clean energy proposal is likely to include significant ethics reform measures. 

Though the above proposals have received the most attention, some say they would leave downstate utility customers behind. 

According to a study commissioned by utility giant Ameren, which serves 1.3 million customers in central and southern Illinois, CEJA could cost ratepayers $20 billion over  the next 30 years. 


Though the downstate utility giant acknowledges that fossil fuel plants are on their way out, proposals like CEJA would significantly accelerate that process and leave downstate short of the energy it needs.

"What that would do is it would leave downstate short of the minimum amount of capacity that MISO requires us to produce within the zone," said Tucker Kennedy, a spokesman for Ameren. "So once we’re not able to meet that minimum requirement for producing it locally, then it puts in a whole new cost structure for us to go out to purchase that on the open market in other states."

The utility and downstate lawmakers point to the fact that though one state, Illinois is on two different energy grids. Northern Illinois is in the PJM grid. And, with its fleet of nuclear plants, is a net exporter of energy. 

Downstate, on the other hand, is on the MISO grid and is a net importer of energy. 


Ameren is pushing legislation that would allow it to build larger-scale solar facilities located near its existing infrastructure.

Kennedy said the utility has already identified 27 sites and is prepared to invest $650 million in solar projects. He said this would be much more cost-efficient than some of the smaller-scale solar proposals backed by other plans.

"So because of the sites that we can pick that are near where the interconnections are, you can get it produced much more quickly and much more cost effectively," he said. 

But the proposal has been blasted by some environmental advocates, who say it’s just a giveaway to a large utility that will have the effect of crowding out others interested in entering the downstate solar market. 

$80 million computing center for state government to be established in Springfield area

Hastings’ committee has held hearings on each proposal this legislative session. The suburban lawmaker has even sponsored multiple competing proposals, underscoring how a final omnibus energy bill would likely include pieces of each bill. He said working groups will convene next month to hash out a compromise. 

"I don’t perceive any of these other bills in their own individual capacity passing just because various methods or various components conflict with other things, and other bills, and it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that our state is within two energy markets," Hastings said. 

The 24 most unusual town names in Illinois

Unusual town names in Illinois

We’ve got nothing but love for odd town names, because we are the home of Normal, after all. Some of these names are silly, others are simple, and all of them have pun potential.

Goofy Ridge

Let’s start with the town that actually has humor in its name. According to Wikipedia, the area was originally called "The Ridge," a camp near the river bank. After some serious drinking one night, a local game warden said he wasn’t too drunk to shoot a walnut off the head of a volunteer. Naturally, someone was drunk enough to volunteer. The game warden placed the tiny target on the volunteer’s head, aimed his .22 rifle, and shot the nut right off. This caper was called by a witness “one damned goofy thing to do,” and the camp was ever after known as Goofy Ridge. (Wikipedia)


Normal was laid out with the name North Bloomington on June 7, 1854 by Joseph Parkinson. The town was renamed to Normal in February 1865 and officially incorporated on February 25, 1867. The name was taken from Illinois State Normal University—called a "normal school," as it was a teacher-training institution. It has since been renamed Illinois State University after becoming a general four-year university. (Wikipedia)


Birds is an unincorporated community in Lawrence County. According to Wikipedia, a Birds resident named Bob Rose became the "most distinguished Reggie Redbird mascot at Illinois State University in 1978." Rose is quoted as saying, "As a boy growing up in Birds, I always dreamed of being the most famous of all Illinois birds, the Redbird. I remember feeling very homesick when I arrived at Illinois State. But, the first time I became Reggie, I felt I could take my Birds nest anywhere and feel at home. I thank Birds for inspiring me to take on the challenge of being Reggie and for allowing me to spread my wings and fly." (Wikipedia)


Oblong is a village in Crawford County. Incorporated in 1883, the village was originally a crossroads; when the village decided to incorporate, it was named after a rectangular prairie on the outskirts of the community. (Wikipedia)


Beardstown is a city in Cass County. The population was 6,123 at the 2010 census.

Beardstown was first settled by Thomas Beard in 1819; he erected a log cabin at the edge of the Illinois River, from which he traded with the local Native Americans and ran a ferry. The town was laid out in 1827 and was incorporated as a city in 1896.

The town is also the site of famous Lincoln/Douglas debate at the Beardstown Courthouse. A Lincoln Museum is on the second floor of the courthouse along with many Native American relics. (Wikipedia)


Muddy is a small incorporated village located in the Harrisburg Township in Saline County. It was built as a coal mining village to house miners working in O’gara #12 mine located on the north bank of the Saline River. Until 2002, it held the smallest post office in the United States. (Wikipedia)


Sandwich is a city in DeKalb, Kendall, and LaSalle counties. Politician "Long John" Wentworth named it after his home of Sandwich, New Hampshire.

Sandwich is the home of the Sandwich Fair, which first started as an annual livestock show in DeKalb County. Held yearly, the Wednesday–Sunday after Labor Day since 1888, it is one of the oldest continuing county fairs in the state of Illinois, drawing daily crowds of more than 100,000, with the top attendance days reaching more than 200,000 fair-goers. (Wikipedia)

Other Illinois towns with unique nouns for names: Bath, Diamond, Energy, Equality, Flora, Justice, Liberty, Magnolia, and Pearl.


Ransom is a village in LaSalle County. It was a planned community; ads were placed in the Streator Monitor as early as 1876 calling for shopkeepers, craftsmen, and tradesmen to locate and set up shop in the area. In 1885, the village of Ransom was officially incorporated. The village was named for American Civil War General Thomas E.G. Ransom, who was born in Vermont but lived as a young man in Illinois. (Wikipedia)


Standard is a village in Putnam County. The population was 220 at the 2010 census.

Normal is another Illinois town with a rather average name.


Cairo is the southernmost city in Illinois. Generally pronounced care-o by natives and kay-ro by others, it’s located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers—this part of Illinois is known as Little Egypt. (Wikipedia)

Other Illinois towns with international names include Athens, Belgium, Canton, Columbia, Crete, Havana, Palestine, Panama, Paris, Peru, Rome, and Venice.

And there are plenty of other U.S. towns named Cairo—they’re located in Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and West Virginia.


Wyoming is a city in Stark County. It was founded on May 3, 1836 by General Samuel Thomas, a veteran of the War of 1812. He and many of the other early settlers came from the state of Pennsylvania. It is for the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania that the city is named. (Wikipedia)

Other Illinois towns that share names with U.S. states include Kansas, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia.


Golf is a village in Cook County. The community is primarily residential, and has a dedicated police department, post office, and Metra train stop; it has a total area of 0.45 square miles. (Wikipedia)

Aside from Golf, there is also a town named Polo in Illinois—that makes two towns that share names with sports. Golf and Polo are also Volkswagen vehicle models. Two other Illinois towns that share names with auto makers are Plymouth and Pontiac.


Boody is an unincorporated census-designated place in Macon County. As of the 2010 census, it has a population of 276.


Mechanicsburg is a village in Sangamon County. The population was 456 at the 2000 census. (Wikipedia)

There are a few other Illinois towns that share their names with occupations, including Farmer City, Mason City, Piper City, Prophetstown, and Carpentersville.


Hometown is a city in Cook County. It was developed after World War II, targeting former GIs and their families. It borders the city of Chicago along 87th Street between Cicero Avenue and Pulaski Road.


Time is a village in Pike County. The population was 29 at the 2000 census.


Royal is a village in Champaign County. The population was 293 at the 2010 census.


Benld is a city in Macoupin County. Founded in 1903, the name derives from founder Benjamin L. Dorsey. Dorsey was responsible for gaining the land on which the town was built and coal mining rights. When it came time to name the village, he took the combination of his first name and his middle and last initial.

On September 29, 1938, a meteorite landed in Benld, marking only the third meteorite landing in Illinois since records were kept. The meteorite was also one of the few known meteorites to strike a man-made object, punching a hole in the roof of a man’s garage and embedding itself in the seat of his 1928 Pontiac Coupe. A neighbor was standing about 50 feet from the impact and may be the individual who came closest to being struck by a meteorite in history up to that time. The meteorite and portions of the car are now on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. (Wikipedia)

Bone Gap

Bone Gap is a village in Edwards County. French trappers knew this area before it was permanently settled. They referred to it as "Bon Pas," which translates to "good step." Kentuckians modified the name to "Bone Pass," as though it were a "pass" through a mountain range. This was then changed to "Bone Gap."

An alternative story about the origin of Bone Gap’s name involves a small band of Piankashaw Indians who established a village in a gap in the trees a short distance east of present day Bone Gap. Several years later early American settlers found a pile of bones discarded by the Indians near their encampment-hence the name Bone Gap as given to the white man’s village established about the 1830s. (Wikipedia)


Equality is a village in Gallatin County. The population was 721 at the 2000 census.


Industry is a village in McDonough County. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 540.


Joy is a village in Mercer County. The population was 373 at the 2000 census.


Mineral is a village in Bureau County. The population was 237 at the 2010 census, down from 272 people in 2000.

The area in which Mineral is located was first settled in the early 1830s. The land just south of the current village was found to be ripe with coal, hence the town’s name. (Wikipedia)

Lost Nation

Lost Nation is an unincorporated census-designated place in Ogle County. It’s located south of the city of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, its population was 708.

There is another Lost Nation located in Iowa, 95 miles due west.


April 23, 2021 at 09:31PM

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