Bill to protect Exelon nuclear plants clears the Illinois legislature

Exelon Generation and Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) announced the evening of Dec. 1 that Illinois lawmakers have passed the Future Energy Jobs Bill, which will protect the futures of Exelon’s Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear plants.

The two Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC) subsidiaries said the bill will maintain Illinois’ competitive electric rates, preserve and create tens of thousands of jobs and expand clean energy at a cost capped at 25 cents per month for the average ComEd residential customer. Both the House and Senate approved the bill, and it now heads to Gov. Bruce Rauner. Once signed, the bill will take effect June 1, 2017.

Rauner said in a Dec. 1 statement about this bill: “For months our administration has been very clear that any energy legislation should follow the guiding principles of protecting jobs, ratepayers and taxpayers. After dozens of hours of good faith negotiations, we have reached an agreement that aligns with those principles. This legislation will save thousands of jobs. It protects ratepayers, through guaranteed caps, from large rate increases in years to come. It also ensures taxpayers are not on the hook to keep the power plants open and online. We thank the rank-and-file legislators and stakeholders for their perseverance and commitment to seeing this through. This process shows that when all parties are willing to negotiate in good faith, we can find agreement and move our state forward.”

The bill levels the playing field with solar and wind energy by valuing the zero-carbon energy produced by the two Exelon nuclear facilities, the companies said. Ninety percent of the zero-carbon energy produced in Illinois comes from the state’s nuclear facilities.

The Future Energy Jobs Bill includes protections that limit the impact of the legislation to all business classes at 1.3% compared to their 2015 rates. It also will provide businesses flexible options for capturing savings through expanded energy efficiency initiatives. In addition, it maintains the $1.2 billion in economic activity generated by the plants and prevents an estimated $10 billion in increased costs associated with higher carbon emissions had the plants closed.

“This forward-looking energy policy levels the playing field and values all carbon-free energy equally, positions Illinois as a national leader in advancing clean energy, and will provide a major boost to the Illinois economy,” said Chris Crane, president and CEO of Exelon. “This has always been first and foremost about doing the right thing for our customers, the talented men and women who operate the plants, and the communities we serve. Today marks a significant victory for the state of Illinois, the families and businesses that live and work here, and the health of our environment. We encourage the Governor to swiftly sign the legislation into law.”

The bill received broad support from more than 200 business, labor, environmental, faith-based and other groups, including the AFL-CIO, IBEW, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Retail Merchants Association. It also had support from members of the Clean Jobs Coalition, including the Citizens Utility Board, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and others.

Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a Dec. 1 statement: “The Sierra Club has worked with partners for more than two years to build a stronger, more inclusive clean energy economy in Illinois. Today we see the results of that grassroots effort made possible by the widespread popular support for advancing clean energy investment in our communities and acting on climate. We’ve made thousands of calls to Illinois legislators, knocked on doors, and rallied thousands of supporters from Chicago to Springfield to Alton. While this bill  contains difficult compromises, this is a tremendous leap forward for clean energy in Illinois. With these policies now in place and strengthened, we will continue the work to reduce dangerous carbon pollution, support opportunities for family-sustaining jobs in Illinois’ energy economy, ramp up renewable energy and ensure that clean energy opportunity is prioritized for communities burdened for decades by pollution.”

Exelon Generation had announced on June 22 that it had just formally notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of plans to retire the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear stations in 2017 and 2018, respectively. This marked the first of several procedural notifications Exelon would need to make to inform regulators, grid operators and state agencies of the retirements of these Illinois plants. The Clinton Power Station in Clinton, Ill., has been due to close on June 1, 2017, and the Quad Cities Generating Station in Cordova, Ill., on June 1, 2018.

Quad Cities and Clinton have lost a combined $800 million in the past seven years, despite being two of Exelon’s best-performing plants, the company said. Exelon employs nearly 700 workers at Clinton and 800 workers at Quad Cities.

Clinton is a single-unit boiling water reactor (BWR) facility that has a nameplate capacity of about 1,100 MW. Quad Cities is a two-unit BWR facility with a total nameplate capacity of more than 2,000 MW. 

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.