Educating Candidates in Illinois on Clean Energy

By Colleen Smith

The primary clean energy goal of the Illinois Environmental Council is to pass legislation requiring Illinois to meet a target of 100% clean energy by 2050 through a combination of renewable energy development, energy efficiency, and electrification of the transportation sector.

To achieve this goal, we have been urging candidates and legislators to make a pledge for 100% clean energy by 2050. Once a candidate has made the pledge, we also encourage them to post it to social media using the #CleanEnergyForAll. Publically declaring their pledge will not only help holdcandidates accountable once they become elected officials, but it also raises the profile of our campaign by putting it in front of candidates’ audiences who may not have seen it otherwise. IEC is also using the results of the pledges to inform our statewide power analysis and evaluate the likelihood of passing legislation requiring 100% clean energy by 2050.

IEC has successfully developed clean energy champions representing a wide variety of racially, regionally, and politically diverse constituencies. To date 26 candidates and elected officials have pledged their commitment to 100% clean energy by 2050.

The 100% Clean Energy by 2050 and #CleanEnergyforAll campaign is part of a national campaign started by the League of Conservation Voters.  Nationwide, over 1400 candidates have taken the pledge.

US Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) pledges to support 100% clean energy with staff members from the Illinois Environmental Council.

In addition to clean energy, IEC is working to educate candidates on clean water, transportation, conservation, as well as many other issues. Our tactics include:

  • Candidate briefings: IEC is holding one-on-one meetings with candidates across the state to educate them on environmental issues. We are also hosting webinars for candidates on specific issues related to clean energy, including jobs, wind and solar project development, energy efficiency programs, and electric vehicles.
  • Digital Campaign Outreach: We continually communicate with candidates about clean energy through a regular e-mail newsletter and sending district-specific information and talking points to use as candidates.
  • Transition Preparation: IEC plans to release an “Environmental Executive” report to prepare for a new administration in 2019. This report will highlight the ways in which the governor and their administration can take action to move Illinois towards 100% clean energy by 2050, as well as accomplish key environmental priorities throughout a variety of issue areas. The report will be provided to both campaigns and released publicly in the fall.
  • Public Forums: IEC is continuing to host town halls and roundtables throughout Illinois to spread environmental messages, especially those pertaining to clean energy.

Colleen Smith is the Legislative Director at Illinois Environmental Council. She has previously served as a Government Affairs associate at Stricklin & Associates; as Chief of Staff for State Representative Ann Williams, working closely on environmental issues;  as Women’s Outreach Coordinator for Quinn for Illinois; and as Clean Water Advocate for the Sierra Club of Illinois. She is pursuing her Masters of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School, and has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from University of Colorado- Boulder, 2012.