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Consider reality of energy needs

Additional sources of clean energy, ways to transmit it are good news

Published: Saturday, July 27, 2013 6:59 a.m. CDT

Nothing is more fundamental to a healthy economy than the availability of reliable energy. Energy is needed in every home and business. Its availability and cost profoundly affect every aspect of our economy.

The use of nuclear, coal and natural gas to generate electricity still dominates the landscape, but renewable energy is becoming increasingly important – as it should. A diversity of electricity supply has major benefits and growth in renewable energy creates more options for consumers.

There’s been a lot of local discussion and media coverage about Clean Line’s proposal to build a direct-current transmission line from western Iowa into Illinois. The line will bring wind energy from the Plains States (much of it from Iowa) into the Illinois market and beyond. 

As the Illinois Commerce Commission continues to review Clean Line’s application, it’s important for residents along the route to consider the big energy picture.

Illinois is lucky to be well-positioned to receive a reliable supply of wind energy from within and from nearby states like Iowa. And Illinois residents have much to gain as investment in the electricity portfolio creates new jobs to build and maintain the transmission lines, and provides a boost to local businesses that will support the construction and operational needs.

However, these benefits can only be reaped if approval is given for the construction of transmission lines to deliver the power from the source to the customers.   

Companies like Clean Line are forced to meet a high threshold to prove that their energy project serves the public need and benefit.

That threshold should be high. But once that standard is met, the company must have the ability to ensure the project cannot be stopped by any single or small group of landowners.

This issue isn’t unique to wind energy. Transmission lines deliver energy from all generation sources and underground pipelines deliver oil and natural gas.

When you get down to it, the question is whether an energy infrastructure project should have the opportunity to use eminent domain if needed as a last resort. The answer is “yes.”

There is a dangerous dynamic going on across the country in which everyone wants access to reliable clean energy, but many don’t want it produced or transported near them. We need to come to grips with the fact that we simply can’t have it both ways.

The people of Illinois have to prepare for the reality that, as our need for energy grows, we will need to build more energy infrastructure.

This means more wind farms, more modernized refineries, more clean coal, solar, natural gas and nuclear power plants and, yes, more transmission lines that transport the energy to the places it’s needed.  

That is good news, not bad.

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