Investments in Innovation

Jan Wright, Publisher, iBi

It used to be there were some things we didn’t have to make a decision about. Prior to deregulation back in the ‘90s, for example, we just paid our electric bills. Today, the majority of my land-line phone calls—yes, I still have one, for the security system—involve pitches to switch my energy supplier. (The rest are political solicitations.)

You may be able to save money by switching your supplier, but making the comparison is not always easy. You can visit pluginillinois.org, a website produced by the Illinois Commerce Commission, to find out how to choose a supplier and learn more about electric competition statewide, your utility rate, real-time electricity pricing and ways to conserve energy. No matter who you choose as your supplier, energy services are delivered locally by Ameren.

Here in Illinois and around the world, the sources of our energy are evolving rapidly. According to the Energy Information Administration, 38 percent of the electricity generated in Illinois in 2015 came from coal; about half came from nuclear power. But with the slow demise of the coal industry and the impending closure of nuclear power plants statewide, those figures are destined to change rather dramatically.

Renewables broke records last year, accounting for the majority of new energy capacity added worldwide—and the signs are unmistakable. Over the Labor Day weekend, I visited Tanner’s Orchard in Speer, observing the many wind turbines along the way. The next day, while traveling to Harvest Café in Delavan, I passed by the Rail Splitter Wind Farm, which has the capacity to power 35,000 homes with clean energy each year. The view along I-155 is quite different than it was a decade ago!

Solar is also on the rise, having achieved dramatically lower costs in recent years, along with new market incentives and the potential for power purchase agreements, which allow for the design and installation of a solar energy system at little to no cost to the customer. “It is one of those scenarios where the time has finally arrived,” declares Jason Hawksworth of Hawk Energy Solutions, LLC, a Peoria-based firm that provides alternative energy solutions.

Like water, the distribution of electricity is something most of us take for granted—but we would notice immediately if it wasn’t there. Continued innovation—in both the source and delivery of energy—is essential if we’re to keep up with the demands of today’s information economy. And that’s something we don’t have to make a decision about. iBi

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