- Published: Wednesday, April 05, 2017 12:33 PM
Senator Don Harmon’s effort to correct ambiguous language in the Rauner administration’s massive Exelon bailout bill could have a profound positive effect on Illinois’ economy – to the tune of at least $2.2 billion in the short term.
By striking seven words in the Exelon bill, Illinois can clear the way for continued investment in wind energy in the prairie state – projects already permitted but that are on hold because of the murky language. That investment includes:
- $2.2 billion in Illinois wind farms,
- 650 new wind towers, and
- 1 million hours in construction work.
Significant additional projects await the permitting process if the ambiguity in state law can be eliminated through Senate Bill 71, said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and a longtime proponent of renewable energy and clean jobs. The legislation represents the kind of sensible, business-friendly legislation that can spur economic investment in Illinois.
“The Exelon bill created significant uncertainty that prevented investment in Illinois by the wind industry, which makes no sense,” Harmon said. “Once we learned of the problem, I knew we would need to resolve it as quickly as possible because we want Illinois to retain its place as a national leader in wind energy.”
The legislation has bipartisan support and passed unanimously in the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee last week. Proponents include the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Illinois Environmental Council, the Laborers’ International Union Midwest Region, the Citizens Utility Board, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and others.
Twenty-five Illinois wind farms supply power to about 1 million homes. The first wind installation in the state went online in 2003.
According to a 2016 report by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, wind farms support about 870 permanent jobs in rural Illinois, generate $30.4 million in annual property taxes and produce $13.86 million in yearly income for landowners who lease their land to wind farm developers. Wind farms have a total economic benefit of $6.4 billion over their lifespans, according to the analysis.
“Economic development isn’t as difficult as Gov. Rauner wants people to believe it is. As we watch demand for renewable energy increase in the coming years, it’s important that lawmakers foster the industry’s growth in Illinois and seize opportunities to protect it from unnecessary government meddling,” Harmon said.
“These are the kinds of things that will make Illinois a business-friendly state and help us to get the economy ‘boomin’,’ as Gov. Rauner likes to say. I look forward to his support on this legislation.”