Using existing policies and infrastructure, the state could reduce emissions 35 percent by 2020

Editor’s Note: Experts are available in Illinois and Washington, D.C. to discuss this analysis

WASHINGTONNew analysis of Illinois’ power sector finds that the state is currently decreasing its carbon pollution emissions and is well positioned to make deeper reductions in the coming years. These reductions will help the state meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expected national carbon pollution standards.

The analysis, conducted by the World Resources Institute, shows existing state policies and improved use of infrastructure could lower Illinois’ emissions 35 percent by 2020 (below 2011 emissions levels).

“Illinois is already on a path toward significant emissions reductions, and we’ve identified ways the state can further bolster business innovation and investment in low carbon energy sources — all while continuing to fight climate change,” said Michael Obeiter, a senior associate at WRI, who led the analysis. “By taking advantage of lower-emissions infrastructure already in place, Illinois would be well-positioned to meet moderately ambitious federal emissions standards.”

The EPA issued proposed carbon emissions standards for new power plants in September and is expected to announce rules for existing plants next year. These standards are one of the most important parts of the Climate Action Plan that President Obama introduced in June 2013. Following are ways that Illinois can help meet these reductions.

Meeting existing state policy goals:

  • Meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) passed in 2007 would reduce Illinois’ emissions by 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2011 levels; and

  • Meeting the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) passed in 2007 would reduce Illinois’ emissions by 9 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels.

Using existing infrastructure to achieve further emissions reductions:

  • Increasing the state’s utilization of combined cycle natural gas capacity to 75 percent would reduce emissions by 8 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels;

  • Increasing efficiency of existing coal-fired power plant fleet would reduce emissions by 1 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels; and

  • Increasing combined heat and power (CHP) at commercial and industrial facilities would help the state meet its existing policy standards.

Renewable energy already has deep roots in the Prairie State. Fourth nationally for installed wind capacity, Illinois is also home to the wind industry’s corporate headquarters, Chicago. Currently, the wind industry supports at least 6,000 jobs and the largest wind farms will add more than $5 billion in income over their lifetimes. One report anticipates wind production could create an additional 16,000 jobs and another $1.08 billion in revenue by 2015.

“Building on Illinois’ commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy production will bring multiple benefits to the state,” Obeiter says. “Along with creating jobs and raising demand for in-state manufacturing, shifting to renewable energy, such as wind and solar, could lower consumers’ annual electric bills in the future while driving emissions reductions in the power sector.”

Illinois has the opportunity to achieve even greater emissions reductions. The new analysis suggests that increasing the RPS by 1% per year after 2025 would lead to a 10 percent drop in emissions by 2030 (compared to 2011 levels) and further increasing CHP capacity could lead to emissions reductions of 51 percent (below 2011 levels) by 2030.

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WRI is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in the United States, China, India, Brazil, and more. Our more than 300 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources—the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being.

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