The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) aims to dramatically increase investment in clean energy across Illinois, driving equitable economic development, fossil fuel divestment, and energy efficiency. CEJA is not the only energy legislation proposed in the Illinois General Assembly this fall, but it is unique in building upon a “grassroots movement of ideas from everyday people across Illinois.”
As the lead, I facilitated the community conversations to inform residents on the current landscape of clean energy in the state, the major pillars of the CEJA bills, and collect their feedback. The feedback was the key and after collated all feedback I submitted to the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition to provide recommendations for improvements in the bill.
The scope of each conversation was responsive to the community we were working to engage. For example the South Shore conversation focused entirely on the economic development portions of the bill. The session highlighted programs in the bill that calls for the creation of Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs and Contractor Incubator programs with an explicit commitment to “ensuring that equity is at the core of every provision.”
The South Shore session also featured a number of partners and community clean energy advocates. Tim Heppner described his experience with Millennium Solar, and it’s rigorous 10 week commitment of four hours per day and 18 exams to pass. Half of his cohort got good-paying jobs almost immediately. Unfortunately, most of those jobs were in the suburbs. Tim now trains a program which helps students earn a national certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
This session also tied into Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, which is facilitating a “parallel conversation” in Chicago to the one LLS is making statewide. Where CEJA aims for 100% renewable energy across Illinois by 2050, Ready for 100 is pushing Chicago to go renewable faster, with goals like electrifying all City buses by 2040.