Preserving the Environment

Here’s What Happens When Communities Demand Green Energy

March 12, 2014
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Here’s What Happens When Communities Demand Green Energy
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Illinois residents learn that there’s (affordable) power in numbers.

There’s a green revolution happening in Illinois, and we’re not just talking about citizens recycling cans and bottles, buying organic fruits and vegetables, or even driving hybrid cars. We’re talking about an environmental movement that’s happening on an unprecedented scale.

Statewide, 91 communities are using 100 percent renewable energy, according to a report titled “Leading from the Middle: How Illinois Communities Unleashed Renewable Energy” from the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, LEAN Energy US, the Illinois Solar Energy Association and George Washington University Solar Institute.

All of this has happened because of one small thing: Electric deregulation (aka allowing communities to choose their own electricity supply). As a result, Illinois utility providers are competing on the open market for customers, rather than one large entity dictating how much power costs. Each of these 91 local governments voted to purchase power through renewable energy providers (wind, solar, and geothermal sources). And because there is power in numbers, these individual towns were able to leverage their size in exchange for discounts from the energy providers. It’s a winning scenario for all the stakeholders — clean energy companies get more customers while residents get sustainable energy for cheaper prices — and one that more communities should follow.

MORE: How One State Is Making It Easier and Cheaper to Use Wind Power

All told, Illinois customers saved as much as $37 billion over the past 16 years. Additionally, these communities have saved more than 6 terawatt hours, which is the stunning equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road or 250,000 homes off the grid.

“The findings of [the March 7] report are an example of Illinois leading our country’s movement to a more sustainable future from the community level,” said Dick Durbin, a U.S. senator from Illinois. “Communities up and down the state have banded together to pursue renewable electricity, reducing both their utility costs and the state’s environmental footprint. Illinois is showing what can happen when change at the local level is harnessed to create a collective movement, and I hope other states take notice.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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