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Gov. Quinn lights up about efficient energy

by Meghan Schiller
Jan 11, 2012


World Resources Institute/Meghan Schiller/MEDILL

Electricity prices in Illinois were much higher than both the Midwest average and the U.S. average of 2010.


World Resources Institute/Meghan Schiller/MEDILL

Natural gas in Illinois cost almost a third more than the national average in 2010.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn kicked off the Midwest Industrial Energy Efficiency Summit Wednesday, strongly endorsing plans for a high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis.

The summit is a kick-off to the 2012 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, which is cosponsored by World Resources Institute, Midwestern Governors Association, the Great Plains Institute and the Midwestern Energy Efficiency Alliance. The conference runs through Friday.

The energy alliance brings together a range of industries and energy stakeholders, including consultants, government policymakers, non-profits, and utility and manufacturing companies. Utilities such as Ameren Illinois Co., Exelon Corp. and its subsidiary Commonwealth Edison Co. are just a few local examples of the participants.

“I would call it one of the most important information exchanges around because that is exactly what these types of conferences accomplish,” said Leigh Morris, director of corporate communications at Ameren.

“We send representatives because you learn a lot by meeting with your peers, attending the sessions and getting a chance to meet with various vendors.”

The alliance creates energy efficiency programs and pitches them to leaders in various industries. The economic and political environment is not ideal for new conservation programs, but those in the energy field want to fix that. Conferences such as this stimulate ideas and produce a game plan for addressing current economic woes, attendees said.

Quinn not only supports the work and mission of the efficient energy conference, but he also challenged attendees to match his enthusiasm for saving energy.

“We need to promote industrial energy productivity and produce ideas that we can roll up our sleeves and work on,” said Quinn.

He advertised high-speed rail as one of those projects. He supports the plan to connect the Windy City with St. Louis with trains capable of reaching 220 mph.

“To better explain the efficiency, the high-speed rail would make Champaign, Ill., a suburb of Chicago,” said Quinn.

Touting a lengthy list of projects aimed to increase energy efficiency in Illinois, Quinn wasn’t shy in sharing his passion for collaboration among Midwest cities.

“Industrial energy efficiency is quite important for our Midwest region. We’re seeing a renaissance of our big manufacturing companies here in Illinois,” said Quinn.

Quinn is regarded as an energy-conscious politician who supports the use of renewable energy to augment industrial productivity whenever possible.

“He is committed to advancing the new economy and ensuring that the Midwest remains an energy technology leader,” said Stacey Paradis, deputy director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Representatives from more than 130 organizations filled the dimly lit Fairmont Hotel banquet hall, preparing for panel discussions and topic breakout sessions such as “Promoting Industrial Efficiency,” “More Savings from HVAC,” “Achieving Scale in Home Energy Upgrades,” and “Delivering Programs in Challenging Economic Times.”

Each of the introductory speeches emphasized collaboration. Energy industry leaders plan to use the summit and three-day conference as a barometer of the fast-growing industry.

But some attendees believe the yearly conference serves the same networking purpose of a Facebook group. “My company sends me here just to network,” said Jessica Bonsall, a business development associate from the British Consulate in Chicago.

“My goal is to bring companies to the UK. I meet as many people as possible, learn about their companies, and see if they’d want to expand a branch to the UK.”

Leaders and economists from 3M, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the National Association of State Energy Officials presented industry numbers and future outlooks via power point. They focused on recovering from a downtrodden economy, ways to influence their suppliers to move toward sustainability and industry energy prices.