Illinois’ breakthrough energy legislation, the Future Energy Jobs Act (“FEJA” or “the Act”), contains several provisions aimed at correcting historical underinvestment in energy efficiency in Illinois’ environmental justice and economically disadvantaged communities. In the process of passing the Act, Illinois advocates gained valuable insights on building a more inclusive and equitable advocacy coalition. As FEJA is implemented at regulatory agencies and in the field, Illinois advocates continue learning to work together to promote equity and inclusion. Advocates are also working to ensure that the promise of the Act’s policy translates into effective efficiency and solar programs and workforce development that brings benefits to all communities in Illinois, especially among those who need them most.
This paper will discuss the coalition that was built to pass FEJA and lessons learned in that process, FEJA provisions that are already dramatically increasing investment in energy efficiency in Illinois’ environmental justice and economically disadvantaged communities, and ongoing implementation issues being addressed by advocates to ensure that FEJA lives up to its promise. The paper weaves in stories about how organizations in environmental justice and economically disadvantaged communities are amplifying their voices within the Illinois coalition to ensure that Illinois’ clean energy future properly includes and reflects the needs of the people within those communities.