Illinois’ cornfields aren’t the only thing that’s green in the state, nearly 100 communities in the the state are 100 percent powered by renewable electricity. That’s according to a new report, Leading from the Middle: How Illinois Communities Unleashed Renewable Energy. As such it’s likely the greenest energy state in the nation on a per capita basis.
The report, released today (March 7) by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Environmental Law and Policy Center, LEAN Energy US, the Illinois Solar Energy Association, Illinois Sierra Club, and The George Washington University Solar Institute, found that the number of communities in Illinois serving their residents with 100 percent renewable electricity far outpaces any other state. Perhaps that’s why Illinois was one of six states in the U.S. last year that sourced all of its new energy from solar power. For instance, it’s neighbor, Ohio has only two cities that serve their residents with 100 percent renewable energy.
What’s more, each Illinois community supported by 100 percent alternative energy chose to do so of its own volition. The communities voted to purchasing enough renewable energy credits to offset any of their other electric use from conventional power generation. “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 with 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 were able to advantage of Illinois’community choice aggregation (CCA) policy. The policy allows the communities to leverage their group purchasing purchasing power to solicit bids from energy providers. In all, only six states have CCA policies in place, they are: New Jersey, Ohio, California, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
The CCA policies also allows communities to use their clout to reduce their overall electricity cost. The Illinois communities, which serve a total of 1.7 million residents, did so while also choosing to source their electricity from renewable sources—primarily wind in the Prairie State.
“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.”
“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 Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D). “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.”
The largely Illinios-focussed report also includes guidance for communities in states with CCA policies intended to help them pursue clean-energy aggregation.