Today on Earth Day, Governor Pat Quinn announced that the state awarded Amtrak a $300,000 energy efficiency grant to assist the passenger rail agency with upgrading its train yard in Chicago. The grant, funded through the Illinois Energy Now (IEN) program, will significantly reduce Amtrak's natural gas consumption and empower them to save millions of dollars annually.
"Illinois is already a leader in energy efficiency and sustainability, and investments in our public facilities will ensure we make the greatest impact," Governor Quinn said. "Programs like Illinois Energy Now continue to strengthen our commitment to creating 21st century jobs and making Illinois the greenest state in America."
The modern energy efficiency project has allowed Amtrak to replace an inefficient steam heat system, and eliminate thousands of feet of steam piping, un-insulated piping, leaks, and defective traps, to much more effectively control and monitor heat sources. The new system is projected to reduce natural gas consumption by more than two million therms each year. At least 30 construction jobs were created over a two-year period as a result of the project.
"We're always looking for ways for energy conservation and environmental management to reduce our carbon footprint and make Amtrak an even more efficient mode of transportation, said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman, who pointed out the Amtrak-Illinois partnership extends for more than 40 years in providing passenger rail service under contract, and Amtrak is a major employer with about 1,500 employees statewide. "We appreciate the state's help with our Chicago facilities."
The IEN grant, administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), was crucial to Amtrak obtaining capital funding to perform energy efficiency projects around the country. This $300,000 grant helped Amtrak leverage $5.54 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. As a result, the company will see an estimated savings of $2 million per year in natural gas costs. In addition, the estimated natural gas consumption savings of 2.1 million therms per year make the Chicago rail yard system replacement the largest natural gas project funded through IEN this year.
"The energy efficiency investments we're making today will pay dividends in the future by creating significant energy savings and keeping the cost of doing business low, which will make Illinois even more attractive to investment," said DCEO Acting Director David Vaught. "This is a great example of how sustainability and economic development go hand in hand."
Illinois Energy Now is an energy efficiency program administered by the State of Illinois that provides millions of dollars in rebates to public facilities that make large-scale equipment improvements to their electric and natural gas systems. More than $70 million is available annually to specifically help fund these projects. Funding comes from a utility surcharge included on customers' utility bills that is directed toward energy efficiency projects to work make Illinois more energy efficient.
"Under Governor Quinn's directive to expand green transportation practices, the Illinois Department of Transportation continues to increase passenger rail service in our state, reducing energy consumption and cutting down on harmful emissions," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. "This investment in the Amtrak's primary Chicago yard means train travel in Illinois will become an option that's even more friendly to the environment."
Ridership on state-supported Amtrak routes in Illinois has doubled in the last five years alone, reaching more than 1.7 million riders in fiscal year 2011, as more and more travelers seek an alternative to the automobile and high gas prices.
For more information on Illinois Energy Now and other sustainability programs, visit www.illinoisenergy.org. For more information on why Illinois is the right place for any business, visit www.illinoisbiz.biz.