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  Improving Illinois’ Energy Future
Foundation is helping to improve energy practices in Illinois

J. Philip Novak, Chairman of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation

As a founding Trustee and current Chair of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, I am pleased to report on how the foundation has put ideas into action. Founded in 1999 as an independent foundation with a $225 million endowment from Commonwealth Edison, the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation has built strong partnerships with Illinois communities and those with allied interests, such as your own, Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC). Together we’ve made remarkable strides to improve our environmental quality through smart investments in clean energy development.

When I talk about clean energy, I know it means many things to many people: less pollution, a healthier environment, lower energy costs and less dependence on imported fuels. And clean energy comes in many forms, from energy efficient light bulbs and better building design, to electricity generated from wind and solar.

Through prudent stewardship of the foundation's resources over its first seven years, our efforts have reached every corner of Illinois and helped create brighter, healthier and safer places to learn, work and live. All of us at the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation are committed to sustaining the momentum of our first seven years, and continuing to be a catalyst for new clean energy initiatives that strengthen the economy and quality of life in Illinois communities.

Over the past seven years, the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation has ramped up its support of clean energy investment in Illinois through a widening array of program initiatives. These have spurred visible and measurable progress by helping charitable organizations and governments across Illinois capture the benefits coming from the use of energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy.

Through this April, Illinois Clean Energy has awarded more than 2,500 grants, totaling $128 million that are supporting activity in all 102 counties in the state. We are proud of these numbers and the results they produce in your community. I am going to put the spotlight on a sampler of those results.

Aiming to make energy efficiency the norm in public facilities operated by Illinois non-profits and governments, the foundation launched an effort that has led to more than 3,300 buildings-from K-12 schools to parks and libraries to colleges-having new energy efficient lighting and saved 94 megawatts (MW) of electricity. In addition, more than 150 municipalities across Illinois-from those with one to over 50 traffic signals-have upgraded to LED traffic signals at 3,500 intersections and saved over 17 MW of electricity with help from foundation grants. Combined, these energy efficiency investments are saving enough electricity to meet the needs of as many as 4,500 Illinois households. Equally important, these projects yield millions of dollars in annual savings for financially strapped schools, libraries, park districts, colleges and local governments.

At the same time, Illinois Clean Energy has awarded grants to gain recognition and acceptance of leading-edge energy efficient building products and technologies not widely in use in Illinois. For example, in conjunction with the AIEC, the foundation has demonstrated the value of the use of geothermal systems in non-profit and government buildings. Geothermal installations have been made in over 36 counties across the state. Another has gained attention for an innovative reflective soy-based roof coating whose use saves energy and helps Illinois's agricultural economy.

Adding to its efficiency portfolio, Illinois Clean Energy provides “green” design grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations to enable them to design and commission new state-of-the-art energy efficient buildings. Helping projects demonstrate “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” [LEED], the foundation can now point you to green buildings in every part of the state that save energy, have reduced operating costs and cause less pollution. These green buildings include elementary schools and high schools, college buildings, museums, nature centers, community centers, affordable housing developments, a police station, a disaster operations center and a courthouse.

The foundation is also focusing its grant support on helping to make possible the installation of wind turbines to generate power for local facilities. Based on a feasibility analysis to identify optimal locations and economic sizing and financing for turbine installations, the foundation grants have led to 16.5 MW of wind power coming from the first 10 community wind projects supported by the foundation. The first two such projects are now in operation: a 660-kilowatt (kW) turbine at the Bureau Valley High School and a 1.65-MW turbine installed by AIEC member Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative. On track to be installed are turbines by another AIEC member, a municipal electric utility, two state universities and two additional K-12 schools.

At the same time, Illinois Clean Energy is finding opportunities to establish the potential of solar for meeting future energy needs. Foundation grants support the installation of photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems in LEED qualifying green buildings. In 2006, Illinois Clean Energy launched a new initiative to educate today's school aged generation about the potential of solar power. The foundation is supporting installation of 1-kW PV systems at K-12 schools with a commitment to integrate renewable energy into their base curricula. In the first wave 22 schools installed PV systems. More will be supported this year. The foundation is also sponsoring the Illinois School Solar Web site as well as teacher training workshops.

Based on our track record to date, I hope you can agree with me that the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation is helping to set a clear course for Illinois' energy future. That future depends on clean energy. It's here. It's real. It's working. So let's make more!


 

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J. Philip Novak, Chairman of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, is the retired Chairman of the Illinois Pollution Control Board and a former State Representative.