When Chicagoans go to the polls Tuesday, they'll have a chance to decide whether the Windy City moves beyond coal to clean energy in a way that lowers electric bills and creates jobs. And no, I'm not talking about the clear choice in the presidential race for all who want to move in that direction.
A referendum on Chicago's ballot will ask voters if they want to pool their buying power to get a better deal on electricity. A better deal will surely mean lower monthly bills, but by choosing clean, renewable energy to replace dirty coal, Chicagoans can ensure that those lower monthly payments are supporting the jobs of the future and reducing the air pollution that threatens our health.
Choosing a cleaner, different supplier won't change how the power gets to your home. The power will still get to you over ComEd's lines, and your monthly bill will still come from ComEd. What could change is where the power comes from, and that is where the exciting potential to grow the green economy lies. Chicago could choose to eliminate coal from its power supply, which currently makes up 43% of Illinois' electricity. If Chicago replaced coal with cleaner sources, the reduction in air pollution would be the same as taking 600,000 cars off the road - all while paying less.
Chicago can also choose to show the leadership lacking in the current Congress, and support local employers who are trying to build the clean energy industry here. While Republicans in Congress are letting the clock run out on one of the key drivers of growth in the wind power industry, Chicago can step up and support an industry that has created over 19,000 jobs in Illinois over the last five years. A new power supplier could also offer new energy efficiency tools to lower bills even further, and potentially support Chicago's efforts to install more solar on city rooftops.
"Voting yes on this referendum question will allow my administration to explore the potential for municipal aggregation to deliver savings for Chicago residents and small businesses through an open and competitive bidding process. As part of this competitive bidding process, we will also ask for suppliers to show us how they can deliver cleaner energy to Chicago customers, keeping Chicago on track towards becoming the greenest city in the world. This will result in a win for homeowners, a win for small businesses, and a win for clean energy." Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
In less than two years as Mayor, Rahm Emanuel has taken big steps to move Chicago to clean, prosperous energy future. Working with community groups, he closed Chicago's two dirty coal plants. He's cutting costs by retrofitting buildings to reduce energy waste. He's opening doors to new business by streamlining permitting for solar panels on Chicago rooftops.
If Chicagoans vote Tuesday to pool their buying power, 1.1 million ComEd customers will be able to build on these accomplishments by speaking with one voice - a clear call for a cleaner energy future.
Let's flip the switch - vote yes on community choice aggregation for Chicago.