University of Illinois at Chicago Study Provides Boost for Wind Power
Mike Ramsey reports in the PJStar that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposed renewable energy standards for electric utilities would generate an estimated $7 billion in economic benefits and 7,800 new jobs through 2012, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago study commissioned by his administration.
The Illinois Commerce Commission is considering a Blagojevich-sponsored plan that would obligate power companies to generate 2 percent of the state's electricity from renewable sources beginning next year. The requirement would rise 1 percentage point annually to 8 percent by 2012, with wind power turbines providing most of the renewable power.
The 146-page report slated to be released today estimated the economic benefit to Illinois at about $1 billion annually, or $7 billion over seven years. The amount reflects private investment to build wind power turbines, the growth of maintenance and supply businesses and other economic trickle-down.
During the same time frame, nearly 8,000 new jobs would be created, the study said.
"We think this really creates a very strong case for what the governor has proposed," Steve Frankl, Blagojevich's environmental and energy policy adviser, said Wednesday. "It's clear that there are significant benefits for the state on the environmental front and the economic front."
William Worek, who oversaw the study at UIC's Energy Resources Center, said the goals explored in the document are "conservatively realistic."
"When other people talk about renewables, the tendency is to be overly optimistic," he said. "This report really looks at realistic scenarios that can be met versus something that may sound good but doesn't track in the sense of numbers."
Authors of the study crunched numbers beyond 2012, envisioning a scenario where power companies had to reach a 16 percent "renewable portfolio standard" by 2020 in Illinois. That would add another $14 billion in economic growth and an additional 4,500 jobs, Worek said.
Wind power farms already exist in Illinois. Developers have built farms in Lee and Bureau counties, and an energy cooperative in Pike County installed a single wind turbine. A nearly 300-turbine project is in the works in McLean County. Several other central Illinois counties have begun adopting wind farm ordinances in preparation for future developments.
The ICC originally was expected to consider a alternative energy plan last month. The process has taken longer than expected as interested parties, including utilities and consumer advocates, have met to hammer out details, using the Blagojevich proposal as a model. The commission may take action later this month, a spokeswoman said.
Currently, less then 1 percent of power sold to Illinois consumers comes from renewable sources. Most power is from nuclear and coal-burning power plants. Illinois annually consumes about 140 million megawatt hours, Frankl said.