Illinois has embraced renewable electricity on a massive scale not seen anywhere else in the nation, says a new report, Leading from the Middle: How Illinois Communities Unleashed Renewable Energy. With 91 communities providing 100 percent renewable electricity to their residents, the state far outpaces any other, including Ohio, which has two cities providing 100% renewable electricity.
“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 Sen. Dick Durbin. “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.”
Each community in Illinois independently voted to purchase electricity through renewable energy credits, leveraging their group buying power to receive renewable electricity while also reducing overall electricity cost.
“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 at 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 that have transitioned to 100 percent renewable electricity represent more than 1.7 million individuals. Demand for renewable energy from the state is more than six terawatt hours, a reduction in greenhouse gas comparable to taking more than one million cars off the road.
“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.”
Illinois is one of six states in the country that currently allows community choice aggregation (CCA), a system by which communities can use their bulk purchasing power to solicit bids from energy providers. Requests for bids can stipulate the mix of energy sources, and as seen in Illinois, can require that all electricity is offset by renewable energy credits – energy that comes from sources like wind, solar, and geothermal. Other states allowing CCA are New Jersey, Ohio, California, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The report includes guidance for local governments in CCA states wishing to pursue aggregation as well as recommendations for expanding CCA.