A $2 charge could be tacked onto electric bills in Illinois to support nuclear power plants.
Even though customers of ComEd and Ameren, companies of Exelon, have already paid for the state’s nuclear facilities, the surcharge would go to support half of the company’s six nuclear power plants.
Critics of the measure call it a bailout for Exelon.
“Exelon wants $1.5 billion more in ratepayer money to bail out a few struggling nuclear power plants, even through its nuclear fleet in Illinois is profitable.” said Abe Scarr, director of Illinois PIRG, a consumer group.
Scarr said that Exelon posted more than $2 billion in profits last year. He said that breaks down to $236,000 per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for all of 2014 – in profit.
“But that, apparently, is not enough for Exelon,” Scarr said. “They figure ratepayer money is theirs for the taking.
“Illinois faces real, critical, energy problems, but we need solutions that work for all of Illinois, not just for Exelon.”
The Illinois Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee this week approved Senate Bill 1585, which establishes a Low Carbon Portfolio Standard aimed at bolstering Illinois clean energy, supporting nuclear energy facilities and protecting jobs, consumers and electricity supplies.
The LCPS was proposed in a January report by four state agencies that considered the economic and environmental benefits of the state’s nuclear energy facilities. The six plants generate nearly half of the state’s electricity and 90 percent of its carbon-free power. The report found that closing three at-risk facilities would result in $1.8 billion annually in lost economic activity, 8,000 job losses and cost up to $1.1 billion per year due to increased carbon and other pollutants in the air.
“Nuclear plants in Illinois support thousands of good-paying, full-time, permanent jobs, but possible nuclear plant closures put many of those jobs at risk,” said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “We support the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard because it would support these existing low-carbon energy resources and support the development of new ones, leading to additional new jobs.”
The LCPS would require ComEd and Ameren to purchase low-carbon energy credits to match 70 percent of the electricity used on the distribution system. It is being labeled a technology-neutral solution, which means it would allow all low-carbon energy sources — including wind, solar, hydro, clean coal and nuclear — to compete on equal footing.
Opponents contest that claim, saying the legislation is written so that Exelon would be the only energy outlet to meet the established criteria.
“This legislation represents an all-of-the-above energy strategy that would make Illinois the national leader in low-carbon energy,” said state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), primary sponsor of the legislation. “In addition to supporting our nuclear plants and the many benefits they provide, the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard will create opportunities to continue to grow other low-carbon energy resources in the state, such as wind, solar, hydro and clean coal.”
Exelon leaders praised committee members for advancing the legislation.
“We commend Sen. Donne Trotter for his leadership and the members of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee in helping to advance this important legislation to position Illinois at the forefront of nationwide efforts to cut carbon emissions while limiting consumer impacts,” said Joseph Dominguez, Exelon executive vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy. “We support the LCPS because it would reduce harmful emissions, provide for the development of additional renewable energy and help keep electricity reliable and affordable for Illinois families and businesses.”
Exelon officials noted that the $2 monthly charge is less than what customers would pay if the three at-risk nuclear plants would close early.
Opponents are not singing the legislation’s praises.
“Exelon’s and ComEd’s legislative proposals would raise utility bills for most consumers, create barriers to competition, and constrain energy efficiency and diverse solar energy development for the future,” said Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “ComEd’s legislative proposal forecloses flexibility that Illinois needs to transition to a cleaner energy future and locks out competitors.”
The Senate Bill will now go before the full Senate.