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The Plight of Municipal and Cooperative Consumers
The Downstate Caucus of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has been working to ensure that the most recent version of the Clean Energy Jobs Act has strong provisions regarding equity and access to solar energy. But this has been difficult, given the fact that many of the residents in central and southern Illinois are served by municipal utilities or rural cooperatives.  These power providers are not subject to the same regulations or oversight as are public utilities in Illinois.

Governor Pritzker issued an Eight Principles document in late August, 2020 that sets out his goal for an equitable transition to 100% energy by 2050. In this document, he stressed the importance of transparency, accountability and engagement.  Downstate municipal and cooperative utility consumers are seeking just that!  The DSC of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition encourages the Governor to take into account the interest of all utility consumers, including those served by municipal utilities and rural cooperatives.

Here are the issues most frequently raised by Illinois residents living and working in muni/coop territories.

  • Utilities serving over one million customers have no regulatory oversight 
  • Organizations that drive muni/coop decision-making are accountable to no one 
  • Grid preparedness is untracked 
  • Energy efficiency is disincentivized 
  • Cairo Public Utility’s exploitative configuration demands ethics reform and transparency 
  • Issue: Prairie State Energy Campus books are closed.

These issues are described in detail in a memorandum sent to the Working Groups Coordination Team of the Governor’s office, in order to bring them to light as energy policy is discussed over the next several months.

Construction of Prairie State Energy Campus, November 2010.Photo by Pam Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative.
What Should Equitable Access to Clean Energy Look Like? 
The Downstate Caucus will continue to work with the larger Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and the Governor’s office to ensure equitable access to clean energy. We believe all Illinois residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, origin, income, gender, or geographic location should:

  • Have equal access to equal access to renewable energy, energy autonomy, and the clean energy economy, regardless of where they live.
  • Be assured that their power provider  will provide them with heat, light, and water, and not shut utilities off during hard economic times.
  • Be protected from price gouging associated with net metering and interconnection fees for solar energy.
  • Have the opportunity for stakeholder engagement and consumer-centered policy, rather than centralized decision-making that leads to the contracts with the fossil fuel industry.
  • Have assurances that grid systems are being upgraded to accommodate the growth of renewable energy.
  • Be assured that all utilities are held to the same ethics and transparancy standards laid out by the Governor.
  • Have access to their utilities “books”, as the Governor is requiring for Exelon’s nuclear power generators, to know whether their utility is operating at a profit or a loss.

You can download a copy of the memorandum here.  Eco-Justice Collaborative is a founding member of the Downstate Caucus of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition and serves on its leadership team.  Contact Pam if you would like more information or if you would like to become involved.

NOTE: Banner Photo Credit:  An entryway into Cairo, Illinois off of I-57 heading south.  Photographed by Martin Davis, September  2004.

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