This guest blog post is by Ready for 100 volunteer Samuel Bean
Although many of us are familiar with wind and solar power and with why they both matter, CEJA (The Clean Energy Jobs Act—which will transition Illinois’ energy sources to 100% renewable ones by 2030) is a massively comprehensive package. Its goals will establish sustainability not only in terms of centralized non-fossil energy sources but also in terms of related financial, social, and health benefits. Among them will be workforce equity increases, full-scale access to renewable sources, incentives for electric transit, corporate accountability/capacity market reform measures, and even support systems for fossil fuel workers.
$26 million alone (funded through pollution-related penalties) will be allocated for workforce development in sixteen statewide locations. An additional $71 million will go towards technical assistance, mentoring, and operational support. The program’s pedagogy will be developed by labor leaders, government officials, education heads, and community organizers. All solar companies (including private contractors) will be required to recruit program graduates. A point system will reward small and/or disadvantaged companies—particularly ones that actively foster progressive community-building measures (such as labor peace agreements).
One of CEJA’s most crucial thrusts will be getting solar access into low-income communities. Through small portions of customers’ bills, low/zero interest loans will serve both homeowners and renters with little to no visible credit history. In time, this outreach will provide them access not only to a renewable/sustainable grid but also to electric transportation— even assistance purchasing a new or used electric vehicle. As with the workforce development efforts, the planning around this piece will consist of cooperation among representatives from multiple sectors.
The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has cited “capacity charges” (the portion of a consumer’s electric bill that effectively pays fossil plant workers to merely be “on call”) as the number one factor preventing efficient decarbonization. Increasing competition from wind/solar has actually forced the fossil industries to rely financially on this fallout piece. In response, CEJA will commit a specific capacity auction mechanism to ensure fiscal integrity. This piece will also allow the state to develop innovative urban renewal efforts and effective energy storage and leveraging practices.
Major utilities will be required to fund middle/heavyweight vehicle programs up to $35.5 million a year. They’ll also be expected to allocate nearly $25 million to an electric transit grid and an additional $10.65 million reimbursement to the state for its facilitation of this grid. As a result, benefits such as EV charger rebates, widespread charging stations, new building accommodations for EV chargers (including a clear set of rights and responsibilities for landlords and Home Owner Associations around this) will all be provided to customers. Electrification installments for public transit, school bus, government, and commercial vehicles will be included within this package as well.
Coal extraction now involves a 6% severance fee. The funds generated herein will support just transitions for communities historically dependent on fossil fuel economies. Advanced notification of closures, sound financial advice, uninterrupted healthcare/retirement plans, and full-tuition scholarships for state universities, trade schools, and community colleges are just a few of the provisions CEJA will enact in this area. Furthermore, the Illinois Commerce Commission will generate a renewed focus on affordability, cleanliness, and equitability for utilities—aligning their profits accordingly.
A friend in Australia once described electricity to me as a “food group”—something that (a la Star Wars) surrounds, binds, and penetrates us all. I grew up being told that we are what we (consume). We can’t be entirely clean and healthy in an economy that supports energy sources that aren’t.