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Illinois Energy Bill Means Good Jobs, Improved Grid


November 21, 2011

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The Illinois state legislature overwhelmingly approved new “smart grid” legislation last month, giving a big boost to job creation and economic development throughout the state.

The bill would invest $3.2 billion to modernize the state’s electric grid, which is expected to create nearly 2,500 jobs.

Says Springfield Local 51 Business Manager Jim Bates:

Every elected officials’ top priority should be jobs, and this legislation will do just that, creating thousands of good-paying energy jobs and spurring needed economic growth.

The initial investment will be funded by short-term hike rates, but the implementation of smart meters and infrastructure improvements will save ComEd customers $2.8 billion over 20 years, says the utility.

The Huffington Post reports:

The savings would come through eliminating manual meter reading, delivering more accurate bills to customers, reducing the number of service calls and visits and more generally enhancing communication between the company and its customers. The $2.8 billion in savings are in addition to the savings that customers would experience by using the smart meters to more closely monitor their energy usage, according to the company.

The original legislation was vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn in September, but a broad coalition of labor unions, environmental activists and business leaders pressured legislators to move forward on the bill.

Says Local 51 Assistant Business Manager John Johnson:

We went to the members directly and educated them on why this was so important for our jobs and the health of the industry. And we didn’t just have them fill out form letters – they personally contacted their representatives, either on the phone or in Springfield.

Utility locals throughout the state mobilized IBEW members to back the bill, including Chicago Local 9; Downers Grove Local 15; Rockford Local 196; Collinsville Local 309; Alton Local 649; West Frankfort Local 702; and St. Louis, Mo., Local 1455.

An improved version of the original legislation, which included more financial assistance for seniors and low-income customers, was passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses the week of Oct. 24.

Says Bates:

It shows what happens when business, the community and labor come together to fight for jobs. We can cut through the partisan gridlock to get a lot done.