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Beneficial Electrification in Illinois

Beneficial Electrification in Illinois
Oct 30 2023

What is Beneficial Electrification?

Beneficial Electrification is a new and important concept being promoted in Illinois. This new term seems somewhat self-explanatory, you can benefit something by electrifying it. It is essentially the process of switching from fossil fuels to electricity. The source of how the energy is generated can be cleaner with this switch – fossil fuel sources are natural gas or petroleum, whereas electricity sources can come from renewable or nuclear sources that do not release carbon dioxide.  

In Illinois, beneficial electrification is supported by the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), which was passed in 2021. CEJA requires the state’s two largest utilities, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and Ameren, develop and implement beneficial electrification plans. These plans must include programs to support the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), heat pumps, and other electric technologies. This is a policy priority of the Illinois government and supported by a lot of taxpayer funds, which are on each and every electric and natural gas utility bill in our state.  In fact, up to $85 million in Illinois Comed Rebates will be spent on businesses and government buildings in 2024 alone, in addition to the $450 million spent on energy efficiency.  

Benefits of Beneficial Electrification

There are many benefits to Beneficial Electrification (BE) and it’s important for several reasons. In general, BE will improve local air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: Electricity can be generated from a variety of renewable sources, such as wind, solar, and hydropower. In fact, in 2022, 33% of our power came from Nuclear Power, and 42% from renewables such as wind, solar and hydroelectric.  

The reason our state passed this law is because it cares about climate change and our contribution to it as a society. Our lawmakers that we elected made this decision, and in my biased opinion, we have some of the most progressive state lawmakers in the country on this topic. The last 8 years were the hottest on record. The first level 5 hurricane hit the Pacific coast of Mexico this week. Record water temperatures in the gulf of Mexico is impacting marine life and intensifying storms. How we heat and cool our homes and how we transport ourselves directly impact this. You don’t have to believe this (I believe enough for the both of us), but you should be aware of the money that is going to be spent by our state programs on this, and if you don’t use this funding,  your competitors and neighboring towns will. As your energy efficiency consultant resource, it is our job to help keep you up to date on available funding.  

Improved air quality: Electric vehicles and heat pumps do not produce tailpipe emissions, which can help to improve air quality and reduce public health risks. 

On the point of local air quality, I’ve lived in Chicagoland my entire 45 years and I developed asthma as an adult when I moved into the city – no doubt in part because of our air quality. Electric vehicles, trucks and buses do not release emissions from their tailpipe, and therefore, improve local air quality when they replace traditional vehicles. Sure, the electricity generated does often have emissions, but it is not concentrated in the streets where our kids play and where we run and bike. 

Heart disease and strokes are also impacted by local air quality, something often overlooked. Trucks, buses, vehicle cars and coal power plants emit a lot of particulate matter, which can make its way through your lungs and into your bloodstream.  Eventually, the body protects you from them and clots form, a percentage of those can end up in the heart or brain. This is a scary fact of our modern world – food and stress are huge contributors to heart disease and stroke, but particulate matter should not be overlooked. In fact, one of the highest contributors to particulate matter in the air is small lawn care equipment and forklifts, incredibly well-suited for electrification.  

Economic benefits: Beneficial electrification can create jobs in the clean energy sector and help to reduce Illinois’ reliance on imported fossil fuels. The 30 jobs at Verde have been created as a result of our laws that support reducing our environmental impact.   

Energy efficiency: Electric appliances and vehicles are far more energy-efficient than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts. This can help to reduce operating costs for business and municipalities long term and relieve stress from that burden.  

benefits to electrifying our grid

Some other ways Beneficial Electrification can be applied:

  • Converting propane or diesel forklifts into electric/battery powered forklifts
  • Converting bus and truck fleets into electric vehicles.  You may not know this, but many of our local school districts are buying Lion Electric Buses made right here in Normal IL
  • Converting commuter vehicles to electric vehicles  
  • Replacing natural gas heating systems that are the end of life, like boilers, to heat pump systems. While capital intensive, these system upgrades have huge values to occupants like better room temperature control and better air quality
  • Adding EV car chargers at public businesses and government buildings for employees and customers

Here are just a few reasons why Illinois buildings should install EV charging stations:

  • Attract and retain customers. More and more people are buying electric vehicles, and they’re looking for places to charge them. By installing EV charging stations, you can attract new customers and encourage your existing customers to stay longer.
  • Improve your brand image. Customers and employees alike are increasingly looking to support businesses that are committed to sustainability. Installing EV charging stations shows that you’re a forward-thinking company that is serious about reducing its environmental impact.
  • Save money. In the long run, EV charging stations can save your business money on energy costs. Electricity is a cheaper and cleaner fuel than gasoline, and our utility company offers incentives for businesses to install EV charging stations.

If you’re a business owner or operate a government building, I encourage you to consider installing EV charging stations at your location. It’s a smart investment for your business, and it’s good for the environment.

electric trucks and vehicles

Concluding Thoughts

The truth is, electrifying heating, cooling and transit is becoming more affordable every day. The cost of renewable energy has come down dramatically in recent years and the cost of electric heat pumps and other efficient electric heating and cooling technologies is also declining. More and more of the cars on the road are electric vehicles and lifetime cost of ownership for an EV is actually cheaper than an internal combustion engine vehicle.  

When we burn fossil fuels to heat and cool our homes and businesses, as well as get around our community, we release harmful pollutants into the air. These pollutants can cause respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer. They also contribute to climate change.

But when we electrify heating and cooling, we eliminate these pollutants. We also reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which makes us less vulnerable to price shocks and supply interruptions.

So why should we electrify heating and cooling? Because it’s good for our health, good for the environment, and good for our economy.

And because it’s the right thing to do.

We have a responsibility to future generations to leave them a clean and healthy planet. Electrifying heating, cooling, and transportation is a state goal we can feel optimistic about achieving. 

If it has been a while, I highly encourage you to set up an energy efficiency assessment for your location to look for all the ways you can take advantage of an exciting and well funded 2024 program.

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