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Illinois lawmakers reintroduce bill for 100% renewable energy by 2050

Illinois state lawmakers have again introduced a bill to require the state to procure 100% of its power from renewable energy sources by 2050.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act, or CEJA, introduced Feb. 10 is broadly similar to legislation introduced in previous sessions. As in the earlier bill, House Bill 0804 would require Illinois utilities to procure 45% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Like its predecessor, HB 0804 aims to put Illinois "on track" to decarbonize its power plants by 2030 "in a just and equitable" manner.

Currently, Illinois requires its large investor-owned electric utilities, including Ameren Corp. subsidiary Ameren Illinois Co. and Exelon Corp. subsidiary Commonwealth Edison Co., as well as competitive retail suppliers, to source 25% of retail electricity sales from renewable energy by 2025.

Rep. Ann Williams, chief co-sponsor of the bill, announced the reintroduction of CEJA at a virtual press conference with the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and other members of the Illinois General Assembly on Feb. 9, calling it a "new and improved" version.

"CEJA has broad appeal because it not only strives to provide environmental justice to communities of color, but it also addresses the need of communities left by the wayside, where coal companies cut and run, leaving joblessness, contaminated work sites and property tax revenue deficits in their wake," state Sen. Christina Castro, who will sponsor the bill in the Senate, said during the press conference.

Citizens Utility Board, a residential consumer advocacy organization in Illinois, issued a press release Feb. 9 signaling support for the bill because it would also expand energy efficiency programs and implement electricity market reforms replacing formula rates.

CEJA "is the only bill that calls for fair compensation for ComEd customers after federal prosecutors caught Illinois' largest electric utility in a bribery scandal to pass legislation that led to a new system of setting rates and opened the door to multiple increases," Citizens Utility Board said. "CEJA would replace that system ... with one that is more fair for consumers and better protects them from unfair rate hikes."

In August 2020, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a report on how to develop an economy powered entirely by clean energy, including plans for Illinois to encourage electric vehicle adoption.

But the report noted that those plans require that public trust in the utility sector be restored through new accountability measures, specifically highlighting the governor's concern related to a deal with federal prosecutors through which ComEd would avoid further criminal investigation related to the bribery scandal.

Exelon did not immediately return a request for comment.