Last Wednesday morning, I participated in a symposium on Growing Chicago's Clean Energy Economy, put on by the Environmental Law & Policy Center. We discussed the progress so far - for example 14 wind power companies are headquartered in Chicago with over 100 businesses in the supply chain and over 10,000 jobs. We also heard about the barriers to clean energy in Illinois and proposed policy changes that are needed to advance progress. The presentations are posted at www.elpc.org/ChicagoCleanEnergy.
That afternoon, I attended a special meeting of the Energy Management Committee that is a University of Illinois committee that follows and advises the purchasing of energy for the UI campuses. We have an arrangement that allows us to purchase natural gas and electricity on the wholesale market. This group, Prairieland, issues requests for proposals (RFP) for power purchase agreements (PPA). Up to now, the driving consideration has been cost. However, an RFP for wind energy was issues to explore the opportunities and costs involved. The RFP would allow UI to commit to buying wind energy from a new wind farm that would be located in the midwest, possibly Illinois, and create the opportunity for new clean energy to be developed. As I learned in the morning, it would create local jobs and generate revenue for the state wherein it is located, not to mention the environmental benefits of non-polluting, renewable energy. However, the investment is significantly higher and there are a number of factors that affect the availability of wind energy. The result of the meeting is that each campus needs to examine if investing in this kind of project is the best way to spend money to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. What do you think?