Two workers walk underneath a solar panel.
Solar Farm Renewable energy can help create jobs in Illinois. © Dave Lauridsen/TNC

Stories in Illinois

Economic Benefits of Illinois’ Transition to Clean Energy

Illinois has enormous potential to position itself as a leader in a clean energy economy.

Michelle Carr is the state director for The Nature Conservancy in Illinois.
Michelle Carr State Director, Illinois

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As the staggering impact of our changing climate is increasingly visible, and the number of power plant closures in Illinois continue to gain public attention, Illinois has enormous potential to position itself as a leader in a clean energy economy. Already there is good momentum for this opportunity.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC) has pulled together more than 200 leaders, organizations and businesses to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would commit Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 and create jobs and economic opportunity, among many other priorities. The Nature Conservancy in Illinois (TNC), as a member of the ICJC, is working to advance the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which will help build a strong, equitable economy and healthier, more resilient communities.

In addition, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has made clean energy legislation a priority, outlining an eight-step plan to create a clean energy economy that would cut emissions, create jobs and lower energy costs for residents and businesses.

Channeling energy and investment into these plans is critical to avoid the devastating costs of climate change in Illinois and beyond. Averting the worst impacts of climate change is also within our reach.

A recent collaboration between executives from 45 financial institutions, energy producers and environmental groups produced a report that clearly concludes we can arrest the steep slide of climate change. It is “technically and economically possible” to reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, according to the Energy Transitions Commission.

Channeling energy and investment into these plans is critical to avoid the devastating costs of climate change in Illinois and beyond. Averting the worst impacts of climate change is also within our reach.

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It will require substantial investment globally—the cost of $1 trillion to $2 trillion each year, the report says, could equal 1.5 percent of the global gross domestic product. Aviation, building and shipping industries will see increased costs. Mining companies, auto manufacturing and livestock farming may lose jobs, affecting communities that are already struggling and will need robust assistance for economic transition. But the costs of delaying climate change action are higher.

In our worldwide economy, these costs are “easily affordable,” the ETC said, able to be absorbed via low interest rates and worldwide savings and buoyed by the enormous economic stimulation packages of the coronavirus recovery.

Climate-related savings could reach as much as $160 trillion by 2050, according to The International Renewable Energy Agency.

It’s a crucial issue for Illinois, and we are on the right path with the transition to clean energy.

Michelle Carr is the state director for The Nature Conservancy in Illinois.

Michelle Carr, State Director

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