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Illinois leading the way in demanding, expanding renewable energy sources

Many Illinois cities and towns aggregate residential and small business customers to buy cheaper electricity in bulk from smaller suppliers

CHICAGO—Illinois has more cities providing 100 per cent renewable energy than any other state, which has reduced pollution by the equivalent of removing a million cars from the road over the past few years, according to a new report released.

A 2009 state law allowed communities to buy their own electricity, rather than relying on a central purchasing agency. Since then, more than 600 Illinois cities and towns have adopted aggregation, which allows them to bundle residential and small business customers to buy cheaper electricity in bulk from smaller suppliers.

Of those, 91 provide all renewable energy, either by buying it directly or buying credits that help fund renewable energy development, the report says.

California, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island also allow communities to buy electricity, but none comes close to matching the renewable energy Illinois is purchasing, said Keya Chatterjee, senior director for renewable energy and footprint outreach at the World Wildlife Fund.

The central Illinois city of Normal began aggregation about 18 months ago, allowing officials to buy electricity at lower rates than they would have gotten otherwise, said Mayor Chris Koos.

Chatterjee said the next step is for more cities to buy renewable energy directly, which will help create jobs in Illinois while benefiting the environment, Chatterjee said.

Last year, Chicago officials announced that five per cent of electricity used by city residents and small businesses who participate in aggregation was supplied by Illinois wind farms. They said they will consider increasing that percentage when the current contract ends.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said the report’s findings could be a model for other states that are considering allowing community aggregation.

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