Sources of our power

Mike DiFerdinando
Mike DiFerdinando is a MSJ student at Northwestern University studying interactive publishing and health and science reporting. He has his bachelors' degree in journalism from the University of Florida.

So where exactly does the City of Chicago’s power come from?

The majority is from coal and nuclear energy. According to the 2011 ComEd Environmental disclosure statement, which measures energy consumption in the city from Oct.1, 2010 to Sept.30, 2011: 44 percent came from coal, 40 percent from nuclear, 12 percent form natural gas and the remain four percent came from sustainable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and hydro power. ComEd provides power for 3.8 million customers in northern Illinois, roughly 70 percent of the state’s population.

Ali Hashmi/Chicago Loopster

This may change in the relatively near future however. In recent years, an increasing amount of pressure has been put on the city to close the Crawford and Fisk coal plants.

“Recently grass roots efforts and legislation have been focused on trying to close coal plants within the city limits, and a lot of attention has been drawn to the negative health effects that can result from having a carbon emitting power station near population centers,” Villano said.

According to Cindy Klein-Banai, Associate Chancellor for Sustainability at University of Illinois at Chicago, the city is moving in a renewable direction.

“I think that its making strides toward being more sustainable,” Klein-Banai said. “There are some concerns though with some resources, like the coal fire power plants and the pollution that they generate and the carbon emissions in particular. Nuclear is clean in terms of carbon but comes with different concerns.”

Ali Hashmi/Chicago Loopster

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” She said.

Offshore wind energy from Lake Michigan has been under consideration by Evanston and the City of Chicago, but that is still a long way off in regards to actual implementation, Villano said.

He also pointed out that solar companies, such as SoCore Energy, are making solar cost competitive with our traditional fuel sources in the city.

Sustainability may have its supporters, but without government assistance and the proper legislation the city’s small steps to sustainability may remain just that.

“In regards to our overall energy mix, the city doesn’t have much to say about it. The state and the federal government have most of the leverage in regards to increasing support for renewables. In general, some easy things for the city to do to make it easier on (for example) solar installers is to pass bills to streamline the solar installation permitting process.”

Ali Hashmi/Chicago Loopster

Villano said that while sustainable energy is important to the city’s future, financial factors that will play a major role in years to come.

“Cost. Our electricity is generally very cheap, so to see renewable energy implemented here we will need to see legislation passed to support this mix,” He said.

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