Both Illinois and the nation have the capacity to build an energy system around clean, renewable resources, according to a new report released on Thursday by Environment Illinois Research & Education Center. The study, We Have the Power: Reaching America's potential for clean, renewable energy, comes as an energy bill to continue funding Illinois’ renewable energy programs is expected to pass the Illinois legislature in the coming weeks.
The report found that all 50 states, including Illinois, have sufficient solar or wind potential to meet current electricity needs, and that Illinois has sufficient solar potential to meet its 2020 electricity needs 63 times over. Illinois is also among the 49 that have enough to do so under a 2050 scenario in which such energy uses as transportation and buildings run on electricity.
“An Illinois with clean air, bright skies and a sustainable future isn’t some pie-in-the-sky idea,” said Paloma Paez-Coombe, Associate at Environment Illinois Research and Education Center. “This report offers a reminder that we actually have everything we need -- an abundance of wind and solar energy and all the tools we need to harness those renewable resources.”
The authors highlight the broad agreement among researchers that an energy system powered by renewable sources is within reach. This analysis adds to that body of research by identifying four key strategies to build an energy system powered by renewable energy: building out renewable energy; modernizing the grid; reducing and managing energy use; and replacing direct uses of fossil fuels with electricity to take advantage of clean technologies. The paper points to encouraging trends in technology, prices and adoption that suggest progress in each of the four areas can be further accelerated in the years to come.
“How quickly Illinois can make the shift to renewable energy will be decided by how and when we lean into these key action areas,” said Coombe. “The good news is that we have seen renewable technologies improve and expand rapidly already, so we should feel confident in our ability to build on that progress and scale up Illinois’ efforts in each area -- from rapidly deploying more clean energy and a grid to support it, to cutting energy use and converting direct fossil fuel uses to electric alternatives.”
Recommendations for policymakers at the local, state and federal levels include setting ambitious goals for the transition to clean renewable energy, as well as providing the support needed to ensure clean energy can actually deliver on those goals.
“We know what we need to do to ensure a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future,” said Coombe. “But it won’t happen by itself -- our leaders need to do everything in their power to get us there.”