written by Jamie Koenig, CJC Policy Intern
The Chicago Jobs Council is a proud supporter of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) in Illinois. Climate change presents major threats globally as well as locally. To respond we must transition our energy sector to carbon neutral renewable energy. That transition is fundamentally about jobs: creating pathways for people to learn and practice new and different skills in the clean energy economy. CEJA does just that.
From 2016 to 2026, clean energy jobs are forecasted to rapidly increase, with solar photovoltaic installation jobs increasing 105%. This makes solar photovoltaic installer the fastest growing job in the country.
While there are a number of proposals on the table related to clean energy in Illinois, CEJA is the only one that offers a comprehensive plan for moving people into green jobs with sound workforce strategies that combat structural economic inequities. Here are some of the reasons that we at the Jobs Council support CEJA:
- Illinois already has almost 90,000 jobs in energy efficiency and this number is only going to grow. But these jobs will require training. CEJA prioritizes opportunities for historically marginalized individuals and people from Environmentally Impacted Areas.
The training opportunities will be spread throughout the state and targeted in areas most affected by pollution and climate change. This way, community voices come first. Community-based organizations across the state will deliver the job training programs, overseen by an Advisory Board with significant representation from community members and program participants. Through CEJA, an estimated $1.5 billion will be put directly into workforce investment each year.
- CEJA recognizes that participating in training is unaffordable for many, even if it is nominally free. In workforce development programs, “earn and learn” models are a best practice to ensure retention and success. CEJA recognizes this. Training participants will receive stipends to help cover living expenses as well as financial support for transportation, childcare, necessary supplies, and other potential obstacles.
- Beyond just training, CEJA is designed to move trainees into jobs. In addition to requiring Workforce Hubs to develop relationships with potential employers, CEJA calls for counseling, resume help, and other job search supports. Programs will not abandon participants at the end of training, instead helping them transition into the workforce to put their new skills to use.
- CEJA takes a community first approach. The Clean Jobs Workforce Hub Program is based on existing community-based organizations. Community organizations and community members will be able to shape the training in their communities.
- CEJA is holistic. The bill addresses multiple areas of energy concern, including renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and limiting carbon emissions.
- CEJA puts forth a plan for Just Transition, to help workers shifting from coal and gas plants to the renewable energy sector. Particular focus will be placed on new business tax incentives, workforce training, site clean-up and reuse, and local tax revenue replacement for communities impacted by the closure of coal plants, mines, and nuclear energy plants. Efforts will be made to channel new investment to these areas to ensure communities and their residents continue to enjoy healthy economies.
- CEJA saves us money. Most Illinoisans will see lower utility bills and increased access to sustainable technologies like solar and electric vehicles. The bill is self-funded through taxes on major utilities and polluters, meaning the taxes of ordinary Illinoisans will be unchanged.
It is time to pass CEJA. Our planet cannot wait, and neither can our neighborhoods. Climate change is happening here in our backyards. Over 40 organizations statewide have come together in the Clean Jobs Coalition to champion this legislation. In his State of the State Address, Governor Pritzker prioritized new clean energy legislation. His calls for reduced carbon emissions, renewable energy, and the electrification of transportation systems are answered in CEJA.
There is no sustainable path forward in Illinois without investing in clean energy job opportunities. CEJA is the best designed and most robust plan to do that. We encourage you to join with us to push for this community-first, holistic clean energy policy.