In his State of the State, Gov. Rauner would be wise to borrow from…himself.

By Lisa Albrecht

With his 2016 State of the State address scheduled for Wednesday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is likely putting the final touches on his speech.

As Illinois leaders often do, he might include in his remarks a quote from one of Illinois’ favorite sons or daughters. Perhaps he will invoke the words of a President (Lincoln, Reagan or Obama); or a poet, Carl Sandburg or Gwendolyn Brooks.

But, if Gov. Rauner is looking to the past to sum up Illinois’ current priorities, he needn’t look any further than remarks that he himself delivered in his first State of the State address last year, when he said:

> “Our top priority must be making Illinois competitive again, to grow more jobs here… Competitiveness must become our watchword.”

> “We must avoid slipping further behind other states in…the capacity of our economy to grow.”

> “It’s now or never for Illinois. It’s time to act.”

Those are sound principles. And, if the Governor is still committed to them, there is a clear and obvious path to achieving them: by embracing Illinois’ clean energy future.

Here’s what that would look like:

First, Gov. Rauner should join governors of both parties from around the country in moving forward with implementation of the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Today, having yet to announce its intentions regarding the CPP, Illinois is a distinct outlier; at least 40 states (of the 47 covered by the CPP) have either initiated steps to meet the goals of the CPP or announced their support for the plan. This represents more than mere foot-dragging on the part of Illinois; it has the potential to cost Illinois jobs, impact our public health and slow our economy.

Second, the Governor should join members of both parties in supporting the bipartisan Illinois Clean Jobs Bill.

Few initiatives have as much potential “to make Illinois competitive again” than clean energy.

At the same time, the field of clean energy also shows the risk, as he warned, of Illinois “slipping further behind other states.”

Sadly, that is exactly what is happening.

Illinois is failing to keep pace.

Other states are pulling out all the stops to prosper in this marketplace. Often, at Illinois’ expense.

Here are some examples:

In 2014, Iowa doubled its solar tax credit and Minnesota established some of the most ambitious solar energy goals in the nation.

Oklahoma recently overtook Illinois as the nation’s fourth-largest wind power producer. Illinois installed no new wind capacity in 2013 or 2014, in part because of fractured state energy policies.

Immediately to our west, Iowa now ranks first in the nation in the amount of in-state power generated by wind (29% as of 2014) and currently has more than twice the number of megawatts (MWs) under construction than does Illinois (679 MW compared to 250 MW); by some estimates, Iowa might put as much 1,764 MWs of new wind in service by the end of 2016, putting even more daylight between our two states.

Immediately to our east, Amazon just completed a new wind farm in Indiana that includes 65 turbines and will generate 150 MWs of wind energy.

Unlike many of the issues that are held hostage to gridlock in Springfield, this is one area where Governor Rauner can take a major step on his own, by signaling that Illinois plans to carry out the CPP.

Among our neighbors, steps to carry out the plan are well underway:

> Iowa: held its first CPP stakeholder meeting in September, just one month after the release of the final rule, and released a timeline for a state plan. http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Air-Quality/Greenhouse-Gas-Emissions/Carbon-Pollution-Stnds-111d ;

> Michigan: Michigan announced it would undertake a “robust stakeholder group” to move forward with a strategy for meeting the Clean Power Plan (source: “Michigan seeking to move quickly on Clean Power Plan compliance,” Midwest Energy News, 12/8/15)

> Minnesota: In August, Minnesota announced it was beginning to draft of rule language to implement CPP. In November, the state’s Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) held stakeholder meeting to discuss state activities on CPP. https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/clean-power-plan-cut-carbon-pollution.html

> Missouri, Indiana and Ohio: Each state has already held stakeholder meetings. Indiana’s first meeting was held just weeks after the release of the CPP. Ohio held information sessions in December, and five regional public sessions are scheduled for early 2106. Missouri held a pair of meetings in September and December. http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/111drule.aspx ;http://dnr.mo.gov/env/apcp/cpp/

While the Governor can signal support for the CPP on his own, the best path to building and sustaining growth rests in passage of bipartisan legislation, the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (SB1485/HB2607).

Members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition — including more than 160 business — support this bill because it contains policy reforms that will give businesses the certainty and predictability they seek and fixes Illinois’ out-of-date energy policies, while creating 32,000 jobs in every part of the state and saving consumers $1.6 billion on their electric bills.

[watch business leaders explain why Illinois must keep pace with other states: ]

Make no mistake, a clean energy infrastructure will be built in America. The question is: where will it be built? Which states will create the jobs and enjoy the economic benefits?

Competition from other states is already leaving Illinois behind in the race for lucrative investments and good-paying jobs and massive private sector investments. We cannot waste another day.

As Gov. Rauner said in 2015: “It’s now or never for Illinois. It’s time to act.

Lisa Albrecht is a renewable energy specialist with Solar Service Inc., and a board member of the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA). Both Solar Service and ISEA are members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, which consists of more than 160 businesses and 60 organizations promoting steps to improve Illinois’ environment, help consumers, improve public health, and create tens of thousands of new jobs across the state.