Naperville residents encourage city to work toward switch to renewable energy sources
More than a dozen residents spoke at Tuesday's Naperville City Council meeting to voice their concerns about the city's reliance on coal-based energy and its partnership with the Illinois Municipal Energy Association.
Although Naperville is in the middle of a contract with the IMEA that runs through 2035, Tuesday's speakers encouraged Mayor Steve Chirico and city council members to wield their power as leaders of the state's fourth-largest city to spur a shift to clean and renewable energy as part of a long-term commitment to combat climate change.
The IMEA is an agency comprised of 32 municipal electric systems working together to provide utility services to their cities. The IMEA is part of the Prairie State Energy Campus, which primarily uses coal to supply 1.5 million Midwest families and businesses with electric service.
City council members and Chirico, who noted his personal commitment to solar energy at home and with his family business, were receptive to the ideas presented. Councilman Benjamin White echoed speaker Mark Winters, who said while there's only so much that can be done now, it's better than doing nothing.
"There's things that we can do even though we have some things that we are contracted legally to do," White said. "I know with the solar credits and so on. There's a lot more we can do as far as renewable energy."
The dozens of clean energy advocates at Tuesday's meeting first held a rally at the nearby Free Speech Pavilion.
Dianne McGuire, a retired teacher in Naperville Unit District 203, said during public comments that if Naperville combined its efforts with municipalities such as St. Charles, a fellow IMEA member, they'd represent 50% of the revenue generated by the IMEA.
"Why not use our collective voice to advocate that IMEA greatly diversify its current power-generating capabilities from 80 percent coal to a much-reduced figure and incorporate more renewable sources?" she said.
Nearly every council member spoke in support of finding ways to shift from coal-based energy toward renewable sources. A month ago the City Council voted to accept the recommendations from the Naperville Environment and Sustainability Task Force, including a 4% annual reduction in waste, energy use and vehicle miles driven while annually reducing greenhouse gases by 4%.
"Our efforts continue to push for practical solutions," Chirico said. "We have to do that, and I think we'll be successful."