Renewable Energy completely powers 91 Illinois Communities

by Guest Contributor, the WWF

JBS News Renewable Energy. Image Credit: Illinois flag via Shutterstock
It turns out that Illinois has enlightened policies on renewable energy, and 91 communities in the state run on 100% green energy. Illinois also leads the U.S. in LEED Certified Green Buildings. It’s a pleasure to give credit where credit is due. Image Credit: Illinois flag via Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, DC, March 7, 2014 – Illinois has embraced renewable electricity on a massive scale not seen anywhere else in the nation, says a new report, Leading from the Middle: How Illinois Communities Unleashed Renewable Energy. With 91 communities providing 100% renewable electricity to their residents, the state far outpaces any other, including Ohio, which has two cities providing 100% renewable electricity.

The report was released today by World Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, LEAN Energy US, the Illinois Solar Energy Association, Illinois Sierra Club, and The George Washington University Solar Institute.

The findings of today’s report are an example of Illinois leading our country’s movement to a more sustainable future from the community level, said Sen. Dick Durbin.

Communities up and down the state have banded together to pursue renewable electricity, reducing both their utility costs and the state’s environmental footprint.

Illinois is showing what can happen when change at the local level is harnessed to create a collective movement, and I hope other states take notice.

Each community in Illinois independently voted to purchase electricity through renewable energy credits, leveraging their group buying power to receive renewable electricity while also reducing overall electricity cost.

Without fanfare, 91 local governments in Illinois have decided that renewable electricity is the best option, said Keya Chatterjee, director of renewable energy and footprint outreach at WWF.

No one knew this was happening, and I doubt anyone would have guessed. America’s green energy revolution is here; and it starts in Illinois.

The 91 communities that have transitioned to 100% renewable electricity represent more than 1.7 million individuals. Demand for renewable energy from the state is more than six terawatt hours, a reduction in greenhouse gas comparable to taking more than one million cars off the road.

We are seeing the power of letting communities choose their electricity supply, said Sarah Wochos, senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Across Illinois, cities and towns are asking for clean, renewable energy, and we encourage them to use that power to bring new renewable energy projects to their communities.

Illinois is one of six states in the country that currently allows community choice aggregation (CCA), a system by which communities can use their bulk purchasing power to solicit bids from energy providers.

Requests for bids can stipulate the mix of energy sources, and as seen in Illinois, can require that all electricity is offset by renewable energy credits – energy that comes from sources like wind, solar, and geothermal.

Other states allowing CCA are New Jersey, Ohio, California, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The report includes guidance for local governments in CCA states wishing to pursue aggregation as well as recommendations for expanding CCA.

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This article, 91 Illinois Communities Powered 100% By Green Electricity, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

Illinois, America’s Green Building LEED-Certified Leader

by Silvio Marcacci.

America’s got a new number one when it comes to green building among the top states for LEED-certified construction, and this year’s winner may surprise you.

Illinois jumped from fifth to first in this year’s Top 10 States for LEED ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), supplanting perennial winner Washington, D.C.

The list is based on a per-capita basis of 2010 U.S. Census data combined with commercial and institutional green building projects certified through the LEED certification program across 2013 – a whopping 1,777 projects and 22.8 million square feet across the top ten states.

Renewable Energy. USGBC Top 10 States for LEED chart via US Green Building Council.
Renewable Energy. USGBC Top 10 States for LEED chart via US Green Building Council

Illinois Places First, With An Asterisk

Illinois ranked fifth in 2013 and placed third in 2012, so while its ascension isn’t shocking and shows a steady increase in green building projects, this year’s top rank is largely due to a technical change in how USGBC ranks states – namely dropping Washington, D.C. from the top 10 list.

171 LEED projects encompassing 29,415,284 square feet of space were certified in Illinois during 2013, good for 2.29 square feet of per-capita LEED-certified space. Those totals were good enough to beat out all other states, but would have been swamped by D.C.’s 32.45 per-capita square footage if it had been included.

“The public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment,” said Governor Pat Quinn. “Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader, and we are proof that smaller environmental footprint can help us step toward energy independence.”

Metro DC, New York, and California Round Out The Ranks

While Illinois may sit atop the ranks in 2013 due to D.C.’s exclusion, the nation’s capital (and federal government’s green building efforts) had a spillover effect on neighboring states, boosting Maryland and Virginia into the top three, with 119 and 160 projects representing 12,696,429 and 16,868,693 square feet for 2.20 and 2.11 per-capita square feet, all respectively.

The nation’s overall leaders in certified square footage and total certified projects, New York and California, tied for fifth in the LEED rankings due to their large populations driving down per-capita square footage.

Renewable Energy. Green building image via CleanTechnica
Renewable Energy. Green building image via CleanTechnica

This twist is due to USGBC calculating the list using per-capita figures to create a fair comparison of green building activity taking place among states with significant differences in population and overall buildings.

Interestingly, USGBC notes the continued trend toward LEED certifications of existing buildings through retrofit projects. 48 percent of all square footage in 2013 was certified under LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance, while 43 percent was certified under LEED for Building Design and Construction.

Every Green Building Boosts the Economy

Regardless of if green building projects are happening on new or existing buildings, they’re having a big economic impact. 35 percent of all US construction jobs today are in green building, according to a 2013 estimate, and industry revenue could top $248 billion by 2016.

“As the economy recovers, green buildings continue to provide jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of USGBC.

Beyond creating green jobs, green buildings are also saving businesses money while making their assets more valuable. A recent analysis showed 58 percent of corporate America had green buildings in their business portfolios with 30 percent building green to lower operating costs.  Additionally, McGraw Hill research has shown building values jump up to 11 percent with an up-to 14 percent return on investment for green building projects.

That’s all great news, but the best may still be yet to come. USGBC notes 37,000 projects representing 7.6 billion square feet of space are in the certification pipeline worldwide, and LEED v4 has raised the bar with increased requirements for certification, meaning our buildings will continue to get greener and greener – just like our economy.

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This article, Illinois Jumps To Top Of US Green Building LEED-Certified Ranks, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy. Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

America’s Updated Energy Strategy

by John Brian Shannon

President Obama visited the Argonne National Laboratory today in Argonne, Illinois, to give a major speech on the future of American energy. A new, USD $2 billion dollar program called the energy security trust was announced which gives focus to the administration’s plans for more renewable energy and proposes lower subsidies for fossil fuels.

Much of the resulting policy statement is based upon information supplied to the administration by the nonpartisan, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) which represents senior business and former military leaders on both ends of the American political spectrum.

Here are the main points of the energy security trust – more detailed information is available by clicking here and here. And you can read the transcript of the President’s speech today in Argonne, Illinois, as compiled by the Chicago Sun-Times here.

By 2020, the President and Energy Secretary Steven Chu want the US;

  • To double the present level of U.S. renewable electricity generation
  • To double American energy productivity (by 2030)
  • To cut energy waste in the U.S. by half over the next twenty years
  • To invest in technology promoting energy efficiency & reduced waste
  • To cut net oil imports in half by the end of the decade
  • To enable safer production & cleaner electricity from natural gas
  • To promote safe & responsible oil and natural gas development
  • To assist the Nation’s truck fleets to adopt natural gas & alternative fuels
  • To improve energy efficiency through the Better Buildings Challenge program
  • To help U.S. states cut energy waste, improve efficiency & modernize grids
  • To streamline Interior Department regulations for faster project permitting
  • To work with the G20 & other fora to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies worldwide
  • To work with the IEA & others to strengthen energy security
  • To promote energy efficiency & development & deployment of clean energy via Clean Energy Ministerial & other international fora
  • To promote safe & secure nuclear power in nations pursuing nuclear energy
  • To design a responsible nuclear waste strategy for the U.S.

As the President continues to pursue his ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, it should be noted that significant progress has been made. As President Obama stated in his speech today,

“We produce more oil than we have in 15 years. We import less oil than we have in 20 years. We’ve doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar. We have tens of thousands of good jobs to show for it.

We’re producing more natural gas than we ever have before with hundreds of thousands of good jobs to show for it. We supported the first new nuclear power plant in America since the 1970’s. And we’re sending less carbon pollution into the environment than we have in nearly 20 years. So we’re making real progress across the board.” – President Barack Obama

All of this is adding up to huge changes in the American energy sector and for the producers, consumers and investors of energy, the energy map in 2020 will bear scant resemblance to our present-day energy model. And that means that seven years from now, the air in and around large U.S. cities will be the cleaner for it.

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