U.S. Secretary of Energy says ‘huge investment’ in research will help make Illinois a leader in clean energy | National News

Illinois is poised to lead in the development of clean energy.

That was the message U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, along with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, brought with them Friday on a visit to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia.

The two were part of a delegation touring Illinois energy research and development facilities that also included U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville; Bill Foster, D-Naperville; Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove; and Bobby Rush, D-Chicago, chairman of the House Energy Committee.

Granholm said during the tour she got a chance to “see what’s going on” with the “huge investment” in energy research in Illinois.

A place like Fermilab does theoretical particle research, looking for the basic buildings blocks of matter, which means “one does not always know where that research will lead,” Granholm said.

But some of Fermilab’s research into the nature of existence has also produced such discoveries as MRI technology to detect cancer. The same kind of theoretical research could lead to the discovery of technologies that could help fight climate change, Granholm said.

“The clean energy technologies coming out of our labs is critical,” she said.

Members of the delegation got a glimpse of that when hearing about Fermilab’s advances in supercomputing, which involves storing data in small chips instead of large servers, saving space and energy.

Last year, the Department of Energy selected Fermilab to lead one of the department’s five new National Quantum Information Science Research Centers. The funding is part of the U.S. National Quantum Initiative, which invests over $1 billion in awards to artificial intelligence and quantum information science research institutes.

Granholm said the delegation also saw the other end of the spectrum in Kankakee, in a community solar project that turns formerly neglected spots into facilities to provide solar power for low-income areas.

“It’s a good way to combine technology and policy,” she said.

Both Granholm and Pritzker talked about the Climate Equity Jobs Act passed in Illinois that creates jobs in clean energy. Pritzker touted it as making Illinois ready “on day one” to use the money from the proposed federal Build Back Better Plan. Illinois also has committed to producing only carbon-free energy by 2045.

“Never in human history has the world faced a more urgent need than climate change,” Pritzker said. “I am very proud, because of the work with the General Assembly, our state is a leader in fighting climate change.”

Granholm also brought a more practical expression of a commitment to Illinois’ future in developing energy and other emerging technologies. She said the recently approved Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will have $21 billion for projects in Illinois to develop next generation technologies.

She also mentioned that the bill provides $16 billion to update the electrical grid; $6 billion to keep existing nuclear facilities alive; and $2.5 billion toward building more electrical charging stations, $149 million of that in Illinois.

The bill also includes for Illinois: $11 billion to upgrade roads and bridges; $4 billion for public transit; $100 million toward better broadband access; $1.7 billion for safe drinking water, specifically replacement of lead water service lines; and $616 million for airport infrastructure.

Investment from the Infrastructure Act and Build Back Better Act will expand funding for 12 existing Department of Energy research, development, demonstration and deployment programs, like Fermilab, officials said.

Durbin said the current need to fight climate change, which he called an “international battle,” is similar to what the United States went through in 1957, when it was charged with responding to the Soviet Union’s launching of the first satellite, Sputnick.

“America is at another existential moment,” he said.

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