The comprehensive Climate and Equitable Jobs Act that Gov. JB Pritzker signed Wednesday contains dozens of features regulating everything from how customers’ utility rates are set to emissions standards for coal-fired electrical operations. But its overall mission comes down to two issues — fighting climate change and, in the process, assuring the reliability of the state’s electrical power grid.
On the first objective, the new law is bursting with promise, including the driving ambition expressed in a press release touting the legislation that "it is the policy of the state of Illinois to move toward 100% clean energy by 2050."
Among the law’s numerous provisions to meet that goal:
• Doubling the state’s investment in renewable energy sources;
• Establishing a commission to study market-based carbon pricing solutions;
• Engaging communities in energy planning at the local level;
• Developing programs to enable workers in coal and other carbon-intensive energy industries to transition into clean-energy jobs;
• Developing economic development programs for communities potentially affected by job losses or other issues related to the transition to clean energy;
• Creating initiatives to protect and assist rate payers, especially those with lower incomes; and
• Promoting efforts to put more electric vehicles on the road and creating infrastructure objectives to support them.
These are just a few broad outlines from dozens of features of this exhaustive legislation. The full bill makes one thing abundantly clear: Illinois is serious about dealing with climate change.
But the second pillar of the legislation — the need to assure a reliable supply of electricity throughout the state — is somewhat less likely to inspire confidence. Perhaps that’s unavoidable. Uncertainty, unfortunately, is a necessary component of any strategy to create change of the magnitude envisioned here — and of the magnitude needed to protect the world our children are inheriting.
But it will still be critical for regulators and watchdogs to honestly and accurately monitor energy production. Illinois is not Texas, so the weaknesses that storms exposed in that state’s energy grid earlier this year may not precisely reflect conditions we could experience here. But the situation in Texas does offer a warning of the need for power management that is just as practical as it is visionary. Wisely, Illinois’ new law establishes clear milestones for evaluating our progress, but they will only be as useful as the effort put into them allows. The importance of strictly and critically undertaking those reviews cannot be overstated.
Considered in that spirit, they will be part of an ambitious strategy to take on one of the most imposing challenges of our time. Undoubtedly, the process will lead to some higher costs and intense demands in re-training workers, supporting communities and changing consumer behaviors, but consider the alternatives if we do not undertake such a mission.
The planet needs to address the climate change crisis. It is gratifying to see Illinois make a serious contribution to the effort.
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September 16, 2021 at 05:32PM