Here at AEE, we are dedicated to advancing policies that expand market opportunities for advanced energy technologies around the nation. Central to that mission is helping state legislators learn about the latest advanced energy developments and policy needs within their states. On April 5, we hosted a virtual meeting attended by approximately 30 legislators and staff members from the Illinois General Assembly. AEE’s Daniel Bloom was joined by industry leaders from Apex Clean Energy, Borrego, CPower, EVgo, Rivian, and Schneider Electric to discuss how advanced energy resources can grow and transform the Illinois economy, and what policies are needed to achieve that end.
Illinois is particularly well equipped to accommodate a booming advanced energy industry. Prior to the pandemic, Illinois employed more than 137,000 people in the advanced energy sector, leading all other states in the Midwest. The state’s land and resource availability, highly skilled workforce, and history as a hub for manufacturing provide the foundation for a successful advanced energy industry. This is evidenced in AEE’s recent report, Electrifying Illinois: Economic Potential of Growing Electric Transportation, which detailed the opportunity for economic growth and jobs in Illinois’ electric vehicle (EV) industry. However, some policy needs must be addressed in order to allow advanced energy technologies to fully flourish in Illinois.
Legislators heard a brief summary of AEE’s Illinois policy priorities including: securing and stabilizing the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), improving renewable permitting processes, maintaining participation in the PJM Capacity Market, expanding energy efficiency to include the largest end-users in the state, expanding demand response participation, setting more aggressive electric vehicle and infrastructure targets, and protecting and expanding corporate procurement of renewable energy. AEE member companies elaborated on these policy suggestions, incorporating their unique and varying industry perspectives.
Speakers from AEE member companies told legislators about the benefits of utility-scale renewable energy projects, distributed and community solar, demand response strategies, energy efficiency and management, electric vehicle manufacturing, and EV infrastructure deployment. Meanwhile, they noted various policies needed to strengthen and grow these sectors.
Borrego’s Sara Wochos, for example, covered distributed and community solar, suggesting expanding Illinois’ RPS budget to enable more new projects to come online. Chris Kunkle, from Apex Clean Energy, highlighted the need to provide market certainty by removing fluctuations in state incentives for renewable energy projects and establishing wind siting standards that can be applied statewide.
Members also discussed legislative actions that would support grid stability as advanced energy deployment accelerates. Kunkle explained that expanded transmission infrastructure is required to reduce congestion as more renewable energy resources flood the interconnection queue. Kenneth Schisler, representing CPower Energy Management, outlined how supply-side demand response programs can help grid operators meet peak energy demand at a lower cost to Illinois ratepayers. Another effective means for ameliorating demand overload, energy efficiency and energy management initiatives serve to reduce energy waste within buildings and facilities while also cutting costs for customers, explained Jeff Morris from Schneider Electric.
EVgo’s Sara Rafalson turned the discussion toward electric vehicles, stressing four main actions needed to facilitate transportation electrification in Illinois. First, she called on legislators to release unused VW settlement funds to finance grant and rebate programs incentivizing electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Reforming and replacing demand-based rates, which pose a significant barrier to cost-effective EV fast charging, especially for vehicle fleets, is another major priority. In addition, electric vehicle incentives would open the market to a broader array of consumers. Lastly, implementing a statewide low carbon fuel standard would bring crucial industry expansion. In closing, Corey Ershow of Rivian offered the perspective of an emerging EV manufacturing company. He emphasized that charging infrastructure must become more readily available to reduce range anxiety and make more drivers comfortable about going electric.
In this meeting, we found the Illinois legislators keenly interested in the opportunities offered by advanced energy in the state. We look forward to working with them on policies that will drive investment in advanced energy to accelerate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, improve grid resilience, and foster consumer savings.
Click below to watch a recording of the full meeting.