Same Clean Energy Goals but Rife With Disagreements
- February 15, 2019
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In Illinois, the Future Energy Jobs Act was passed two years ago that authorized nuclear subsidies and incentivized new invesements in wind and solar energy. This sweeping legislation was seen as a win for clean power generation backers across the state, but recently it appears as if debate is afoot again and the two sides aren't clean energy vs. opposition but rather two different groups of clean energy advocates who share the same goals but different views of how to get there.
A recent report from E&E News summed up the situation thusly:
Environmental groups and renewable energy developers have the same goal — one shared by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker — of advancing toward a 100 percent clean energy future. But at least for now, the two camps have different ideas of how to get there.
Those differences became clear Wednesday with the announcement of a bill backed by the wind and solar industries to boost Illinois' renewable portfolio standard to 40 percent by 2030. The current RPS requires that 25 percent of the energy supplied by investor-owned utilities come from renewable resources by 2025.
The "Path to 100 Act" has sponsors in the House and Senate and the backing of national trade associations such as the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association, and it would spur an estimated 20,000 megawatts of renewable development in Illinois over the next decade.
But the campaign, announced at a news conference at the Capitol, was also notable for who wasn't there: environmental groups.
Groups such as the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Citizens Utility Board (CUB) are core members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, a group organized three years ago to advocate for policy to advance clean energy in Illinois.
But the coalition was silent on the "Path to 100 Act." It didn't participate in Wednesday's announcement, didn't mention the bill on Facebook or Twitter feeds, and otherwise ignored the news.
Some coalition members declined to discuss the bill. Others said they weren't taking a position because it has yet to be introduced and they haven't seen bill language.
So why would groups that want to spur more renewable energy in Illinois be unwilling to support a bill that would do just that?
The reason is that the coalition is in negotiations with Chicago-based Exelon Corp. on a separate legislative proposal expected to be filed ahead of a Friday deadline for the introduction of new bills.
While any bill would include some provision to help expand renewable energy in Illinois, it's not yet clear what Exelon will ask for from the Legislature.
This situation appears to be the most recent example of in-fighting amongst the 'green' and clean energy crowds that end up seeing the goals being undermined after the two sides shoot themselves in the foot. It appears to be happening in Illinois, it's happened numerous times in Washington state where environmental advocates end up opposing carbon tax proposals due to them not doing enough in their view, and the somewhat-bungled rollout and messaging of the much-hyped Green New Deal (is nuclear a part of it or not? is it phasing out fossil fuels or not? etc.) seems poised to similarly be attacked by opponents as well as clean energy advocates who wish it would go further.
I'm not sure there's a lesson to apply here, as this is an issue that appears to pop up in the clean power industry with frequency without real solutions. As with any politics, though, the best approach is likely one of listening and understanding to every side, compromise where necessary to get something (rather than nothing at all) accomplished, and continue the dialogue and debate in a healthy and respectful manner.
What do you take away from examples of in-fighting within clean energy communities who share goals but differences in visions?