A Central Illinois lawmaker, representatives of Central and Southern Illinois energy efficiency companies, and the director of Illinois Sierra Club said Friday that ratepayers in the Ameren service territory should not be excluded from job growth and customer savings offered by expanded energy efficiency, especially because new legislation could force these customers to pay more to support Exelon’s nuclear fleet.
“Energy efficiency investments save people money and create good jobs, but Downstate communities won’t see these benefits if we leave Ameren customers out of the equation,” state Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana said. “Now is not the time to leave Central and Southern Illinois in the dark when it comes to energy efficiency.”
Existing energy efficiency programs run by both ComEd and Ameren have been successful in lowering energy bills by more than $1 billion since the law passed in 2007 and creating thousands of jobs. However, both companies are limited by existing law in the amount of energy conservation services they can offer their customers.
ComEd recently introduced a new bill, Senate Bill 1585, that would expand these programs to save customers at least $4 billion over the next 10 years. However, these benefits would be limited to customers in ComEd’s Northern Illinois service area, excluding Ameren customers from the energy efficiency plan.
Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Sierra Club, said leaving Ameren customers out of the new benefits was unacceptable.
“This not just about putting more money back in people’s wallets — it’s about putting people to work,” Darin said.
He pointed out that since energy efficiency standards were first adopted, savings of more than $1 billion have been delivered to customers, and the standards are crediting with helping spur the development of an energy efficiency industry that employs more than 86,000 people statewide. Energy efficiency experts point that Central and Southern Illinois are especially fertile ground for big savings given the number of large industrial users in this region of the state compared to Northern Illinois.
“While we are highly encouraged by Exelon and ComEd’s support for new, robust energy efficiency goals that will offer consumers within their service territory billions of dollars on their utility bills and generate thousands of new jobs, the fact that Ameren customers and energy efficiency companies in Central and Southern Illinois are cut out of these jobs and these savings is an absolute non-starter,” Darin said.
In contrast to the ComEd/Exelon bill, Ammons pointed to the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (Senate Bill 1485 and House Bill 2607), legislation she has co-sponsored that would create savings by boosting the state’s current energy reduction standards.
The bill would change the state’s energy efficiency goals to call for reducing energy consumption by 20 percent by 2025, approximately doubling the standards called for under current law. As a result, customers across Illinois would save at least $1.6 billion, according to estimates from the Citizens Utility Board, translating into savings of $100 per year on the average customer’s bill. According to CUB, those estimates are conservative. The bill would create an estimated 32,000 new jobs across the state, with the majority in the field of energy efficiency.
A recent study by the Clean Energy Trust found these jobs grew by 25 percent between 2014 and 2015, now accounting for more than 86,000 jobs statewide.
Kiersten Sheets, lead energy solutions implementer at Ruyle Mechanical Services Inc. in Peoria, said she knows firsthand the benefits of increased energy efficiency for her customers and for her company’s ability to add jobs.
“We have seen what statewide energy efficiency standards have already meant to our field, and we see no reason why our part of the state should be left out of any new measures that would mean more jobs and more financial savings for all of Ameren’s customers,” she said. “It’s the kind of step that would boost our ability to add jobs and the number of people we could serve. We support the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill because it is the one piece of legislation that allows everyone, in every corner of Illinois, to gain from smarter energy policies.”
Jason Vogelbaugh of Alpha Controls & Services spoke about the work his company has done for big commercial clients in Southern and Central Illinois.
“These are major commercial and industrial users who enjoy huge savings through energy efficiency work that we provide,” he said. “It means these companies have the ability to invest back into their companies, including in the form of more jobs and more payroll.”
He added that more energy efficiency projects for Alpha Controls translates into more jobs for members of labor unions in Central and Southern Illinois, as the company hires workers from local unions for its projects.
“These are good jobs, union jobs and they are there for the long-haul,” he said.