The Illinois Commerce Commission today largely approved the themes of Gov. Blagojevich's plan to jumpstart the development of clean, safe power sources in Illinois. So can we now count on cleaner air and lower electricity rates from a growing Illinois wind power industry?
To their credit, the Governor's staff worked tirelessly to make the Governor's Sustainable Energy Plan a reality today. However, while the ICC approved the goals of the plan, it essentially made compliance with these goals by Illinois utilities voluntary. Rather than requiring utilities to meet the goals, which begin with getting 2% of power sold from clean sources in 2007 and end with 8% clean power by 2013, the ICC "expects electric public utilities and alternative retail electric suppliers to participate in the Sustainable Energy Plan by filing appropriate documentation to implement the Plan within thirty (30) days".
Will the utilities meet this expectation? The Governor's office has been working hard to reach agreements with them to do just that. All eyes will now be on the power companies' submittals to the ICC in 30 days to see how specific and enforceable their plans will be.
Ideally, we would all be celebrating a guarantee today that pollution levels will begin falling as more and more power comes from the wind, that the new jobs in clean power will soon be created, and that we will have an alternative to the rising rates for nuclear and fossil fuels. Now we need our public utilities to heed the ICC's call, and act in the public interest with specific commitments to reach or even exceed the goals of the Governor's plan.
The battle is far from over, but the Governor and his staff deserve credit for getting to this point - clearly articulated goals, and followup work to see they are met. Unfortunately the ICC did not lock them in with certainty today, and it's not clear what happens next if the utilities' proposals fall short. Whether Illinois will soon be a leader nationally and globally in encouraging 21st century energy sources now seems largely up to them.