CEJA's energy efficiency programs save money, create jobs and protect our health and planet
With recent higher gas prices, many small businesses, nonprofits and residents are looking for ways to reduce their energy costs and keep their buildings comfortable -- and recent policy changes in Springfield are starting to offer more options for softening the blow.
More incentives to upgrade lighting, heating and air-conditioning equipment are a few of the ways the recently passed Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) can help customers lower their energy bills across the Chicago area and throughout Illinois. Take these examples:
• Learning Bridge Early Education Center in Evanston provides preschool and early education services out of a Victorian home built in the 1800s. The building is beautiful, but staff often complained about drafts, and the space was difficult to heat and cool. Air sealing and insulation cut energy bills, reduced drafts and made staff and families who use the center even happier with the comfortable, historic space. CEJA makes more critical improvements like this possible.
• Easterseals Academy in Rockford found that replacing their low-efficiency, high-output lights with efficient and adjustable lighting benefited both their students and their bottom line. The school, which serves students with disabilities, knew that overly bright lights lead to a less productive learning environment for their participants.
When the school put a lighting upgrade out for bid from contractors, they were able to secure over $36,000 from the ComEd Small Business Energy Savings program and $10,000 in grant assistance to cover the cost. The funding allowed Easterseals to install new LED lighting throughout their facility to support their students while saving money.
Owners of affordable apartment buildings can benefit from energy efficiency too. CEJA expands funding to utility energy efficiency programs that benefit families with low incomes. The law's solar provisions also expand funding for Illinois Solar for All, which provides incentives to make solar installations more affordable.
When used together these programs can dramatically reduce the cost of energy for building owners and tenants, while having a positive impact on our environment.
Since the majority of clean energy jobs in Illinois are efficiency-related, expansion of these programs creates more good-paying jobs and economic growth, particularly in historically disadvantaged communities that need it most.
And CEJA expands low-income energy efficiency investments, which reduces bills and fixes health and safety problems like faulty wiring and indoor air quality problems in low-income homes and other facilities.
Across Illinois, smart energy efficiency updates can save money, create jobs, protect the planet and improve our health. The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act helped make that possible. Now, it's up to residents and small businesses to take advantage of these programs to build a healthier and more affordable future.
• Anne McKibbin is Principal Director, Policy at Elevate, a nonprofit organization that seeks to create a just and equitable world in which everyone has clean and affordable heat, power, and water in their homes and communities. She is also a member of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition.