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llinois Governor Calls for State Renewable Portfolio Standard

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich last Thursday used his latest "State of the State" speech to call on the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to increase the portion of the state's energy that comes from renewable sources, including wind, through the adoption of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

Electricity demand in Illinois continues to grow 2% annually. At the same time, Illinois has enough wind to generate a significant amount of electricity, but this renewable energy source remains largely untapped.

Blagojevich is recommending an RPS that would require by 2012 each electric utility or other retail electricity supplier to supply enough renewable energy to comprise at least 8% of the electricity sold in Illinois. This requirement would mean that more than 4,000 MW of power must come from renewable sources by 2012, and at least 75% of that -- or 3,000 MW -- must be wind.

Currently, there are at least 12 large wind projects under consideration in Illinois that will likely be built should the state adopt an RPS, according to the governor's office, which noted that an RPS could generate more than $3 billion in investments in Illinois, creating about 3,000 construction jobs and several hundred permanent jobs.

Prior to Blagojevich's speech, Steven Frenkel, the governor's top environmental and energy policy advisor, noted that the proposal is "predicated" on the continuation of a key federal production tax (PTC) affecting wind power that expires at the end of 2005.

"I think that probably like any RPS, we're counting on the PTC to help wind be as competitive as it needs to be and certainly that kind of federal subsidy we feel is appropriate. We urge Congress to extend the PTC for not just one year, but for several years at a time," Frenkel said in an interview with NGI.

The hope is for the ICC to put the RPS plan in place by this summer, Frenkel said. "We'll be submitting recommendations to them for their consideration. Our hope is that they will expeditiously review the governor's recommendations and if they deem it a viable plan and proposal, that we'd see rules in place -- or an order from the commission in place -- by summertime."

U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) recently introduced legislation that would extend the PTC by five years.

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