Bill to protect Illinois nuclear plants clears a state Senate committee

The Illinois Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee on March 26 passed Senate Bill 1585, which would establish a Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (LCPS) that would support the state’s nuclear energy facilities and protect jobs, consumers and a reliable electricity supply.

“We commend Senator 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’s (NYSE: EXC) executive vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy, in a March 26 statement. “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.”

The LCPS would require Exelon’s Commonwealth Edison subsidiary and also Ameren to purchase low carbon energy credits to match 70% of the electricity used on the distribution system. It is a technology-neutral solution, Exelon said, which means it would allow all low carbon energy sources – including wind, solar, hydro, clean coal and nuclear – to compete on equal footing.

“This legislation represents an all-of-the-above energy strategy that would make Illinois the national leader in low carbon energy,” said Sen. Trotter, D-Chicago. “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.”

The LCPS was a potential solution presented in a January 2015 report by four Illinois state agencies that considered the economic and environmental benefits of the state’s nuclear energy facilities. These six plants generate nearly half of the state’s electricity and 90% of its carbon-free power. The report found that closing the three at-risk nuclear energy facilities would result in $1.8 billion annually in lost economic activity, 8,000 job losses, and cost as much as $1.1 billion per year due to increases in carbon and other pollutants. According to a PJM Interconnection analysis in the report, the plant shutdowns would result in up to $500 million annually in higher energy costs statewide.

“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, 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 proposal includes consumer protections, including a consumer price cap that would limit the impact to a 2.015% increase, or about $2 per month for the average Illinois residential electricity customer – less than the costs customers would face if the nuclear plants close early. A separate customer rebate provision would provide a direct bill credit to customers if wholesale electricity prices exceed a specified level. The LCPS legislation has bipartisan support among legislators, business, labor and community leaders.

Exelon is the nation’s leading competitive energy provider. Headquartered in Chicago, Exelon does business in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. Exelon is one of the largest competitive U.S. power generators, with more than 32,000 megawatts of owned capacity comprising one of the nation’s cleanest and lowest-cost power generation fleets. The company’s Constellation business unit provides energy products and services to more than 2.5 million residential, public sector and business customers, including more than two-thirds of the Fortune 100. Exelon’s utilities deliver electricity and natural gas to more than 7.8 million customers in central Maryland, northern Illinois and southeastern Pennsylvania.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.