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How to make Illinois into a clean-energy leader

Illinois is a big deal where power is concerned: of U.S. states, it’s the sixth largest consumer of electricity and the fourth largest producer. It has more nuclear power plants than any other state and is unusually dense with underutilized transmission lines, which are at a premium these days. It has a thriving wind power industry (though it is a sad 18th in installed solar capacity), and a bustling, green-minded metropolis in Chicago, which boasts nearly 80,000 green jobs.

So it’s too bad the Illinois power system makes the Talmud look like The Da Vinci Code. I’ve been talking to people about it for a week and I feel like my brain got mugged in a back alley.

Nonetheless! States are where it’s at, in terms of clean-energy policy, and significant things are going on in Illinois. I shall attempt to make sense of them for you.

Here’s the top line, for those of you with short attention spans: Illinois has a renewable energy standard (in dork-speak, known as a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS), which on its own is a good thing. It also has a law allowing communities to take responsibility for their own power supply, and a growing number of communities choosing to do so, which on its own is also a good thing. Unfortunately, because of poor design, the latter policy is on a collision course with the former. The answer? Fix the RPS.

This is your Illinois clean-energy bumper sticker: Fix the RPS!

On to the full story.


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