Chicago’s Commitment


Margaux Miller, Sports Editor

In April, Chicago made a bold climate policy commitment beyond Illinois’ commitment to 100 percent renewable clean energy by 2050. The city has another plan: 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, ten years earlier than the statewide plan.

The Illinois plan, HB 3624, is known as the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act; Chicago’s is titled R2019-157 or the “Support for Implementation of Clean Energy Transition Plan.”

The plan outlines strategies, sets milestones, and develops a timeline to create a clean, renewable energy future for the community now and into the future. It provides benefits for people making the switch to renewable energy, ensures that every community’s voice is heard during and after the transition to sustainable energy, and making sure it promotes eco-friendly and accessible forms of transportation.

But the question still stands: will this project finish by the deadline? Or, better yet, will this plan even see to completion?

Several ambitious government-sponsored projects have begun and ultimately failed due to lack of funding and mismanagement.

A prime example of this mismanagement is Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The proposed nuclear waste repository was scrapped in 2009. Despite some talk in 2018 about restarting the campaign, the facility remains a blown-out mountain costing the government $15 billion.

Or even the Environmental Protection Agency which arguably doesn’t do nearly enough to protect the environment and is grossly underfunded.

What is it to say that Chicago’s commitment will go down just like the rest of them?

I say no. This project will be fulfilled. And here’s why:

This isn’t the first time a country has committed to producing energy sustainably. Iceland generates the most clean electricity per person on earth, deriving mainly from hydroelectric and geothermal power plants. China may be the world’s largest polluter, but it is also the world’s largest investor in renewable energy; the PRC owns five of the world’s six largest solar module manufacturing firms.

There are many ways for us to do this: wind energy, solar energy, and new to this area, biomass.

Farms in Illinois are abundant. Biomass energy uses plant material , sawdust, cornstalks, manure, landfill gas, bio algae, vegetable oil or other organic matter as fuel.

Investors and engineers are also looking for more creative ways to harness energy. These include passive solar design, photovoltaic cells for rooftops or farms, wind trees, and kinetic roads/sidewalks.

Chicago has endless opportunities to implement clean energy with benefits to the environment and the economy alike.

Energy efficiency programs have helped cut utility bills by billions of dollars.Wind and solar are becoming more viable as power generation sources due to a decreasing cost for production and increased efficiency.

Most people are worried about the sharp reduction of jobs. What about people in the coal industry? Oil?

While these worries are valid, more than 119,000 are employed in the clean energy industry right now, and the number is expected to grow exponentially well before their 2050 deadline.

The people that are projected to be displaced by the reduction in coal and oil usage can easily find jobs in these sectors.

And will they reach their deadline? Soft yes from me.

Theoretically, Illinois is expected to be 45% clean energy by 2030, in order to reach their benchmark of 100% renewable by 2050.

My only concern is the sheer magnitude of wind and solar power required to generate electricity for more than 5 million homes, and the necessity for more than $30 billion in private investment.

But due to the potentially economic gain from the implementation of renewable energy, I don’t think the investment will be a problem. In seven years, a solar panel will pay for itself. A wind turbine? Five months.

The economic and environmental benefits of this project will allow it to be seen as important, dire, and most importantly, a necessity for the city of Chicago and Illinois as a whole. Chicago’s commitment will be seen through to the end, and that end will come on schedule.