Metro-East News

Nuclear ‘bailout’ bill works way through Illinois General Assembly

A nuclear power plant “bailout” bill has made its way through the state House’s Energy Committee and now has the support of Ameren Illinois as well as Governor Bruce Rauner, according to Exelon.

The House Energy Committee on Tuesday recommended the Future Energy Jobs Bill be adopted, and the Senate’s Energy Committee reviewed the legislation on Wednesday.

The legislation has been called a bailout of two Exelon-operated nuclear power plants, one in Cordova and one in Clinton.

The bill calls for expanded rebates for community solar, and commercial and industrial solar installations, among other things.

More than 200 business, labor, environmental, faith-based and other groups, including Illinois Retail Merchants Association, members of the Clean Jobs Coalition, which includes the Citizens Utility Board, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and among others have shown support for the legislation.

“We thank and commend Gov. (Bruce) Rauner and his professional staff for their focus on increasing robust customer rate protections, while maintaining the many benefits of this bill, including preserving and creating jobs and providing a shot in the arm to Illinois’ economy,” said Joe Dominguez, Exelon’s executive vice president, Governmental and Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy. “We will continue to work with legislative leaders and all policymakers today and tomorrow to enact this urgently needed legislation.”

The newest changes in the legislation includes protections that limit the impact of the legislation to all ComEd business customers at 1.3 percent compared to their 2015 rates. Ameren Illinois business customers received similar protections.

Ameren Illinois spokeswoman Marcelyn Love said a typical residential customer who uses 10,000 kwh per year under the third version of the bill would pay an additional 12 cents per month.

“The 12 cents per month includes the energy savings projected by keeping the two nuclear plants open,” Love said.

The amendment already contained cost caps on key components of the legislation, including energy efficiency, the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the Zero Emission Standard.

This week, after the additional changes were made to the bill, Ameren Illinois gave its support to the legislation. Ameren officials testified they supported the bill at the House committee hearing.

“We supported it because it included enhanced consumer protections and other provisions to keep the costs manageable and enable us to continue making enhancements to the grid,” Love said said in an email to the BND. “Our team is involved in negotiations with the key stakeholders to address some of the feedback that was presented at (Tuesday’s) hearing. We’re working with all of the parties to negotiate a reasonable compromise and we’re optimistic that the bill will be presented for a vote soon.”

Opponents of the bill say the third version drafted by Exelon would result in at least 44,000 jobs being lost through 2030, slash economic output in Illinois by $14.7 billion and reduce state and local government tax revenue by $429 million.

The overall increase in electricity bills would be $13.3 billion through 2040, according to the Better Energy Solutions for Tomorrow Coalition.

“Even after a rash of last-minute changes to secure more votes, this ... analysis of the latest Exelon bailout proposal shows why it is still so bad for Illinois,” said BEST Coalition Director Dave Lundy. “For residents throughout the state the costs are excessive. For businesses and governments, the costs are crippling.”

Exelon counters that the legislation, if passed and signed into law, would prevent the loss of $1.2 billion in economic activity generated by the Cordova and Clinton nuclear power plants. The company added there would be an estimated $10 billion in increased costs associated with higher carbon emissions that would occur if the two nuclear power plants closed.

Exelon said when all of the economic impacts are calculated, benefits of the legislation outweigh the costs.

The BlueGreen Alliance, a group of labor unions and environmental organizations, urged lawmakers to pass the the legislation and for Rauner to sign it.

“The Future Energy Jobs Bill is the result of cooperation and compromise and, as a whole, it moves the state forward in terms of clean energy and energy efficiency, while protecting the jobs of many workers in the state,” said the alliance’s Dick Breckenridge. “The much-needed fix to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, combined with expanding energy efficiency standards and $750 million in investments in low-income communities, will drive the growth of quality jobs in the state for years to come.”