Metro-East News

Legislature might take up nuclear bail-out bill. How much will it cost you?

Exelon Corp.’s Clinton Power Station as seen through a tangle of high-voltage power lines in Clinton, Illinois. A massive forward-looking energy plan pushed by Exelon Corp. and derided as a multibillion-dollar bailout for two unprofitable nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities could land on Illinois legislators’ desks in the final days of the General Assembly's fall veto session.
Exelon Corp.’s Clinton Power Station as seen through a tangle of high-voltage power lines in Clinton, Illinois. A massive forward-looking energy plan pushed by Exelon Corp. and derided as a multibillion-dollar bailout for two unprofitable nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities could land on Illinois legislators’ desks in the final days of the General Assembly's fall veto session. AP

When Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday for the last three days of its veto session, they might take up a bill that is meant to help bail out two nuclear power plants in the state, which could lead to increases in electricity bills.

Under consideration by the General Assembly is the Future Energy Jobs Bill, a 446-page piece of legislation being pushed by Chicago-based Exelon Corp. and Commonwealth Edison that would add 77 cents more per month to a typical residential bill for consumers who use 10,000 KwH of electricity a year, according to Ameren Illinois estimates.

The estimates are based on models from a previous but similar bill, Ameren officials said.

Proponents of the Future Energy Jobs Bill say the proposed legislation would strengthen and expand the renewable energy standard by providing money for renewable resources, such as wind power and solar power.

The bill, if signed into law, would create a subsidy for two aging nuclear power plants. Exelon has said it has plans to close nuclear power reactors it operates in Clinton and the Quad Cities without the subsidy.

Proponents of the bill say closure of the two nuclear power plants would lead to even higher increases in energy costs.

Marcelyn Love, a spokeswoman for Ameren Illinois, said even if the Clinton plant closed, there would be adequate energy supply, and it is not expected to cause an immediate increase in energy prices.

“With Clinton not participating in the auction, there would be an increase over time,” Love said.

Love said Ameren is negotiating with stakeholders about the bill.

We feel we have had productive conversations with the sponsors, but our agreements on certain provisions haven’t always made their way into the filed bills.

Richard Mark, president of Ameren Illinois

Ameren Illinois, however, has been restrained in commenting on the legislation.

“We are aware that the sponsors have been meeting and the substantive legislation is still being negotiated,” said Richard Mark, president of Ameren Illinois. “We have consistently maintained that, until our concerns are addressed, we cannot fully support this legislation.

“We feel we have had productive conversations with the sponsors, but our agreements on certain provisions haven’t always made their way into the filed bills. We will reserve substantive comment until we can analyze the full impact of these proposed changes.”

Opponents of the bill say it would add $16.4 billion to electric bills between 2017 and 2040.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, which represents 234 commercial office, institutional and public buildings in downtown Chicago, said it expects the bill to cost its members and their tenants $417 million. Because property taxes and utility costs are among the biggest expenses for office buildings, the organization predicts that a rate hike of that size could drive companies and jobs out of the state.

The bill previously included a proposal to allow electric bills to be based on how much power households and small businesses consume during peak times. But the proposal was taken out last week, according to Crain’s Chicago.

Crain’s Chicago also reported that language that would have increased energy costs downstate in order to help financially ailing coal-fired plants opened was stripped out of the legislation.

The bill does include money for education programs to help ratepayers navigate the new systems.

The bill also calls for expanded rebates for community solar, and commercial and industrial solar installations. Proponents say the legislation will create stable and predictable funding for renewable energy sources; provide $180 million to $220 million per year for new wind power, large scale power, rooftop solar and community solar power projects; provide $500 million in low-income solar development and job training; and provide incentives for the development of in-state renewable resources.

Exelon did not say how recent changes to the legislation would affect electricity bills.

We’re encouraged by the progress we have made toward achieving a clean, reliable and affordable energy future for our customers.

Fidel Marquez, senior vice president, government and external affairs for ComEd

Joe Domingues, the executive vice president for Governmental and Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy for Exelon, said the proposals in the latest stripped down version of the Future Energy Jobs Bill will help strengthen clean energy, provide billions of dollars in savings from energy efficiency, provide assistance to low-income residents, and help keep the the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear power plants open.

“We have said from the beginning that we wanted the Future Energy Jobs Bill to bring diverse ideas and constituents together to arrive at a comprehensive plan to address the state’s complex energy and economic challenges,” Dominguez said. “In the past week, we have heard from groups and individuals representing a broad cross-section of interests. We have listened to what they had to say and have made changes to the bill based on their input.”

Fidel Marquez, senior vice president, government and external affairs for ComEd, said the utility has been working with groups representing government, environment, consumers, communities and businesses for a year and a half on the legislation.

“We have listened and heard the issues presented at the recent hearing and worked with staff to make revisions to the bill so that it is better for everyone,” Marquez said. “We’re encouraged by the progress we have made toward achieving a clean, reliable and affordable energy future for our customers. We look forward to continuing this work so that we can deliver innovative solutions that bring value to our customers, state, business community and environment.”

What is Exelon Corp.?

Exelon Corporation is an American Fortune 100 energy company headquartered in the Chase Tower in the Chicago Loop area of Chicago.

  • Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
  • Revenue: $34.5 billion
  • Operates 15 nuclear power plants, including in Clinton and the Quad Cities.
  • Subsidiaries: Includes Commonwealth Edison Co., others

Source: Exeloncorp.com

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