Pritzker calls for more renewable energy, expert warns of consumer costs

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) -- Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order Wednesday to join the U.S. Climate Alliance to get all of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2050, but a critic said the plan will lead to higher utility prices for consumers rather than reversing climate change.

The order adds Illinois to a group of other states that have pledged to use 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 and 100 percent by 2050. Pritzker said the order bypasses President Donald Trump, who removed the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.

“We know that climate change is real,” Pritzker said. “We know that it’s a threat. I think that there’s just no disputing it anymore. And we know that we must act.”

After signing the order next to representatives from the Sierra Club and the Illinois Environmental Council at Southwind Park in Springfield, Pritzker said he hasn’t proposed subsidies for renewable energy production.

“But what I have said is that if we do nothing that we’re going to lose out on job creation for the state and lose out on revenue from job creation and the creation of new businesses,” he said.

Pritzker said the order is also meant to combat what he and others say will be irreversible damage in 12 years from climate change if nothing is done.

More than half the state's energy came from nuclear plants in 2016, according to a report the nonprofit Food & Water Watch. That year, nearly 40 percent of Illinois’ large-scale electricity came from coal, natural gas and oil. About 6 percent was from wind or solar energy.

Climate Science Coalition Executive Director Steve Goreham said there is demonstrable evidence that the more renewable energy injected into the power grid, the higher the utility cost will be for ratepayers. He said that could lead to ratepayer revolts that have been seen in other countries.

“If you look around the world we’re seeing ratepayer revolts already,” Goreham said. “The most visible one is the yellow jackets in Paris regarding a fuel tax that [French] President Emmanuel Macron was putting on.”

In December, Macron suspended France's gasoline tax increase after weeks of violent protests.

Goreham said Illinoisans should know that the more green energy is required by utility companies, the higher the rates will go.

Pritzker said he’s had talks with some utility companies and those talks will continue, but there aren’t any proposed changes in regulations yet.

“I’ve said it to each one of them individually that I was going to do this,” Pritzker said, “and we’re going to have to continue the dialogue about how we’re going to evolve our providing for our energy needs in the state.”

Illinois is the 18th state to join the U.S. Climate Alliance.

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