Illinois businesses: Gov. Rauner must back Clean Power Plan

Mark Stenftenagel, CEO and Principal of Whitney Architects, addresses members of the Illinois media on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. Businesses from across the state are urging Gov. Rauner to grow the Illinois economy by backing the Clean Power Plan. Behind Stenftenagel from left are: Jen Allen, community manager, Coalition Energy; Kevin Johnson, Iraq War veteran and a managing director of Canadian Solar; Chris Baxter of EDP Renewables; and Greg Albright, a vice president at AllCell Technologies. (E2 photo)

Mark Stenftenagel, CEO of Whitney Architects, addresses members of the Illinois media on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. Businesses from across the state are urging Gov. Rauner to grow the Illinois economy by backing the Clean Power Plan. Behind Stenftenagel from left are: Jen Allen, community manager, Coalition Energy; Kevin Johnson, Iraq War veteran and a managing director of Canadian Solar; Chris Baxter of EDP Renewables; and Greg Albright, a vice president at AllCell Technologies. (E2 photo)

By Gail Parson

More than 104,000 people work in clean energy in the state of Illinois.

But you wouldn’t know it from the lack of clear support for this important and growing sector of our workforce by some of our state’s leaders.

Thankfully, businesses are speaking out.

Nearly 150 businesses appear in an ad in Crain’s Chicago Business stressing the urgency of enacting two policies that are crucial to Illinois’ economy and its environment: the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill and the federal Clean Power Plan.

You can see the ad here.

A group representing these businesses also spoke at a press conference urging Governor Rauner to support the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill. The bill would increase energy efficiency and renewable energy in Illinois, and also help the state comply with the new Clean Power Plan, which would cut carbon emissions from existing power plants by about 31 percent in Illinois.

Kevin Johnson, an Iraq War veteran and a managing director at Canadian Solar, was one of them. He urged the governor to support the Clean Power Plan and the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill because it would send a clear signal that Illinois is ready to win the clean energy future – something he knows first-hand.

In a blog published on Veterans Day, Kevin wrote: “Veterans are uniquely positioned to understand the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels as a main source of energy. Adapting our country to a clean-energy economy will lessen the geopolitical and security risks our military faces on a daily basis and create valuable jobs for our servicemen and women when they return home.”

If implemented, the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill would create 32,000 clean energy jobs by 2021, according to estimates by The Illinois Science & Technology Institute. Introduced by Sen. Don Harmon and Rep. Elaine Nekritz, the bill has strong bipartisan support in Springfield. It is also supported by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, which unites businesses, environmental organizations and consumer and faith groups.

The Illinois Clean Jobs bill also outlines a clear path to help achieve these goals and maximize the job-creating potential of the Clean Power Plan, a historic effort that calls for states to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants nationally by nearly one-third by 2030. As a sign of bipartisan support for the plan, both of Illinois’ U.S. senators, Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Dick Durbin, voted last week to uphold the Clean Power Plan and against measures that would have blocked it. However, Governor Rauner has yet to make clear how Illinois will comply with the Clean Power Plan.

Mark Steftenagel, CEO of Oak Brook based-Whitney Architects, founded his company with the belief that design can change people lives for the better. Buildings and construction contribute significantly to our carbon footprint, and we need designers like those at Whitney to help reduce their impact on the environment. Mark sees the life-changing impact of policies that incentivize renewable energy and energy efficiency by unleashing innovation and creating jobs, while also mitigating the dangerous impacts of climate change.

Governor Rauner, a former businessman, knows the importance of policy certainty to those who want to invest in the state.

Supporting the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill and announcing a compliance strategy for the Clean Power Plan would send a clear signal to business leaders that Illinois is open for business.

Chicago-based Gail Parson is E2’s Midwest advocate.