Members from the Illinois renewable energy industry touted its economic impact as they unveiled an interactive map of solar projects across the state. But they warned that the current boom will go bust if the State doesn’t pass new legislation.
Representatives from the renewable energy industry said, thanks to Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), it will generate $5 billion in economic activity as well as more than 14,000 new jobs for the state by the end of this year.
Peter Gray is a spokesman for the Path to 100 Coalition. It seeks to expand renewable energy in Illinois. He said things look good -- in the near term.
“The problem," he said, "is that the way things are set up right now with State policy, we’re not going to be able to continue growing this as we have so well over the last couple of years, because we’re going to hit a cliff with the program’s funding and the program’s size.”
Mike Pesek lives in Shorewood, Illinois and works for SunRun, a residential solar energy services company. He said the boom has been good for his town, where manufacturers like Caterpillar have closed plants.
“This FEJA program set up by the State of Illinois is generating jobs in the community," he said, "of which I have one.”
But the looming drop-off could threaten those jobs.
Illinois is already failing behind in its renewable energy goals. Gray said more funding is needed for new projects.
The Path to 100 Act, backed by the coalition, would raise the target for the percentage of renewables in the state’s energy mix. It would also extend the current system of credits and increase funding toward the new goal.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has said he supports boosting the state’s renewable energy portfolio.