Report:

Saving Energy, Growing Jobs

Illinois' Energy Efficiency Industry
Released by: Environment Illinois Research and Education Center

Every day, thousands of Illinois residents go to work to make our state more energy efficient. Across the state and in fields ranging from manufacturing and installation to architecture and engineering, Illinois has a thriving energy efficiency sector. At least 330 individual businesses and 737 retail outlets in Illinois are already working to increase the efficiency of our state’s homes, businesses and industry.

Energy efficiency is the quickest, cheapest, smartest way to reduce pollution and curb our dependence on fossil fuels. By continuing to invest in energy efficiency, Illinois can create jobs right now and enjoy the benefits of decreased pollution and fossil fuel dependence well into the future.

Energy efficiency reduces global warming and air pollution—quickly, cheaply and effectively.

  • Illinois could save 21.4 percent of the electricity and 46.9 percent of the natural gas that we currently use by implementing energy efficiency improvements, according to research by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.
  • These reductions in energy use would cut Illinois's total global warming emissions by 18.4 million metric tons per year. That is equivalent to the annual emissions of 3.5 million cars. They would also reduce emissions of pollutants that form smog and soot by 6 percent, making the state’s air cleaner and healthier to breathe.
  • Improving energy efficiency saves Illinois residents money. An average family that receives weatherization services through Illinois's Weatherization Assistance Program, for instance, saves $437 on its energy bills the next year.
  • Illinois has already begun to tap its efficiency potential. In 2007, the state adopted an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard requiring electric utilities to hit targets for energy efficiency savings. A 2009 law set a similar requirement for gas utilities.

Illinois's energy efficiency industry creates jobs across the entire economy. More than 330 independent companies and 737 independent and chain retail outlets work to make the state more energy efficient, employing thousands of workers.

  • Illinois's energy efficiency companies are part of a growing national industry. In 2006, the nation’s energy efficiency industry employed 2.1 million people, a number that could skyrocket by 2030 if the nation continues to prioritize efficiency.
  • Sieben Energy Associates of Chicago is one of at least 40 Illinois companies that perform energy ratings and audits to identify opportunities for homeowners and business to improve energy efficiency. Since 1990, the company has grown to employ 25 people, and regularly takes on large-scale projects.
  • The Sangamon County Department of Community Resources is one of at least 63 businesses or agencies in Illinois that weatherize homes and buildings, providing free services to low income clients. Thanks to funding from the American Reinvestment and Recover Act (ARRA), the department was able to hire four new full-time auditors and weatherized four times as many buildings in 2010 as in 2009.
  • Serous Materials of Chicago is one of at least 73 companies that manufacture energy efficient products in Illinois. After learning of new incentives for efficiency under the ARRA, Serious Materials purchased the recently closed Republic Window and Door factory in Chicago, and rehired some of the laid off workers.
  • Better Way Builders of Brighton is one of least 120 companies that design or build energy efficient buildings. As a small business in the homebuilding industry founded shortly before the housing crash, Better Way would appear to be vulnerable to the slump in its industry. In fact the owners report that strong demand for energy efficient homes has kept them busy right through the recession.
  • At least 21 Illinois companies provide commercial efficiency services, guiding companies and institutions through the process of identifying and taking advantage of opportunities for efficiency savings.

Energy efficiency can be an engine of growth for Illinois economic future.

  • The American Solar Energy Society projects that energy efficiency could create up to 32.1 million jobs nationwide by 2030.
  • Illinois has lost 61,000 construction jobs and more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs during the economic downturn. Since many of the jobs created by energy efficiency spending are in those two fields, increase investment in energy efficiency could reduce unemployment in these two sectors.

Illinois should continue to expand and strengthen its energy efficiency policies and programs.

  • In 2007 Illinois adopted an energy efficiency resource standard that commits the state to saving 2 percent of the electricity it would otherwise use every year. State leaders should ensure that this standard is implemented well, and remove policy barriers to its implementation so that Illinois receives the greatest benefits possible.
  • The Illinois Power Agency, which procures the power distributed by Illinois's electric utilities, should procure efficiency instead of electricity when it is the least cost option.
  • Illinois has adopted the strongest national model building codes. To ensure that we continue to benefit from advances in efficient design and construction, Illinois should make sure that all jurisdictions in the state automatically adopt the strongest national codes.
  • Illinois should adopt adopt appliance efficiency standards for products it has not yet covered with its current stands, like televisions.
  • Illinois should continue to work with other Midwestern state to implement policies to reduce global warming pollution, which would also spark increased investment in clean energy solutions such as energy efficiency.