Faith community supports shift to clean energy, with just transition, in Illinois

Faith in Place is celebrating the anniversary of the Future Energy Jobs Act [FEJA], passed by the Illinois General Assembly on December 6, 2016. It was enacted on June 1st of 2017.

The passage and implementation of this Act is positioning Illinois as the nation’s leader in growing energy efficiency, solar, and wind jobs. Currently, Illinois is home to nearly 120,000 clean energy jobs, and this Act will inspire as much as $15 billion in new clean energy investment throughout Illinois.

Energy Efficiency

FEJA expands energy efficiency programs to save money on electric bills for individuals, as well as also expanding options for commercial, industrial and economically disadvantaged customers.

It accomplishes this by requiring Commonwealth Edison [ComEd] and Ameren Illinois [Ameren] —the state’s two biggest electric utilities—to dramatically expand their energy efficiency programs and reduce electricity waste, lowering power bills in Illinois by billions of dollars through 2030.

The Act expands the definition of “low income” beyond just people who qualify for state assistance, and it directs the utilities to engage with economically disadvantaged communities in designing and delivering new programs for customers most challenged to pay electric and heating bills.

Solar and Wind Jobs

FEJA is projected to create 1350 megawatts (MW) of new wind and 2700 MW of new solar throughout Illinois, all by 2030. For context, an average wind turbine you see while driving through the prairies of Illinois has a capacity of about 3 MW. A MW of solar is about equal to 7 football fields of solar panels. That is a lot of new wind and solar because of FEJA! Tens of thousands of new solar and wind jobs will be created as a result.

Workforce Development

Because of the advocacy and leadership of people of faith, one of the primary goals in this Act is to make new clean energy jobs accessible for everybody in Illinois. The creation of a workforce development program in the Act specifically recruits, trains, and places returning citizens and foster care alumni in solar jobs. $30 million between now and 2030 is set aside for training individuals from communities who are suffering in Illinois as a result of environmental injustices. A goal is written in the Act to create 2,000 clean energy jobs for returning citizens and foster care alumni by 2030.

Next Steps

Implementation of FEJA faces numerous obstacles, and Faith in Place, as the Illinois affiliate of Interfaith Power & Light, continues to advocate that the dollars generated and the jobs created in the implementation of the Act further connect the dots between environmentalism, mass incarceration, and a just economy. We can indeed curb climate change while reducing recidivism rates by making accessible solar, wind, and energy efficiency jobs for returning citizens and foster care alumni.

Faith in Place is also actively working to educate our faith partners about the programs of FEJA. “This is a moment where we must get it right,” Rev. Brian Sauder, Executive Director of Faith in Place, said. “Our leadership here in Illinois will light the way for other states, and our nation, to take further climate justice action. As a network of faithful citizens across Illinois, our aim is to implement FEJA such that we are actively hiring green companies to work at our houses of worship who also employ returning citizens and foster care alumni, living out our faith principles of social justice with environmental justice.

Energy and Climate, News, Advocacy

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