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Nukes versus wind and an upcoming power play

Friday, Feb 7, 2014

* From Crain’s

The clock is now ticking for Exelon Corp.’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants.

CEO Chris Crane said the company would have to decide by year-end on whether to shutter nuclear facilities that currently are losing money due to persistently low wholesale power prices. Analysts have identified the downstate Clinton plant and Quad Cities as the two in Illinois that fit this description. […]

A number of state politicians, including Senate Energy Committee Chairman Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who represents the district including Quad Cities, would want at least to explore ways to keep open the plants, each of which employ hundreds of union workers and contribute millions each year in local taxes.

Mr. Crane has been a vocal critic of state and federal subsidies to wind farms that are competing with Exelon’s plants. Tax credits enable wind farms in areas of the country that have a surplus of power, like Illinois, to run profitably even when wholesale prices are zero.

Those two possible plant closures would, indeed, be a major blow to the respective regional economies.

* Exelon wants to make its decision by year’s end, and the threat of closure could prompt legislative action

If lawmakers entice the company to enter into negotiations on what it would take to keep the plants open, given the deadline Mr. Crane laid down on closure decisions, a bill would have to be acted on in the legislative veto session that takes place in November.

That two-week session would be a challenging venue for acting on such a request, which inevitably would be highly controversial and would open the door to requests from every energy-related interest group.

No kidding.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Abe the Babe - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    Production tax credit for wind…BAD

    Ratepayer subsidized, state-mandated, and above market long-term contracts for nuclear…GOOD

    Jacobs knows as much about the energy industry as Rauner knows about the plight of the poor. Yet, one writes energy policy and the other may get the governor’s keys.

    It is what it is I guess.

  2. - Tom Joad - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    Exelon always gets what it wants in Springfield. This is no different from previous demands. They have many former legislators who became lobbyists after supporting Exelon while they were in office.

  3. - Toure's Latte - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    FPL is no prize winner either. Industrial scale wind only works with massive subsidies somewhere in the mix.

  4. - Abe the Babe - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 11:26 am:

    “FPL is no prize winner either. Industrial scale wind only works with massive subsidies somewhere in the mix.”

    And nuclear isn’t subsidized? You think only investors paid for those ungodly expensive plants? And you think only investors will be paying for the storage of their nuclear waste which will still be around in 2114?

    Not a chance.

  5. - Ghost - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 11:33 am:

    Why would we want to susidize nuclear energy? because it worked so well for japan?

    How about we give them subisides to shutter the nuclear plants and replace them with wind farms in those locations…..

  6. - walker - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    How hard/expensive would it be to mothball them, in such a way that they can safely be reopened when our fossil fuel prices climb again? Nuclear should remain in the mix.

  7. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 11:47 am:

    I’m not anti-nuke. I’ve lived all my life in Northern Illinois, the nuke plant center of the world, and I find my third eye helpful in my daily life.

    But if you can power up with wind or natural gas, it’s a no-brainer. Don’t need that nuke, don’t need that coal. Less risk and damage all the way around.

    That sounds anti-coal. And it is. Burning coal is poison and the mining of coal in this country has been a crime against humanity. Up there with slavery and Native American genocide, the most wretched excesses of capitalism in our history have been inflicted on the people of Coal Country.

    To my friends up north, do yourself a favor, once the ice breaks. This spring, get down to Little Egypt and the Ohio River valley and watch it come to life.

    It’s awe-inspiring, hauntingly beautiful. The folks are nice and the eatins good. Spend some money.

    And don’t take for granted the terrible price that has been paid by some to power up your air conditioner and microwave.

  8. - VanillaMan - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 11:59 am:

    Who needs energy?
    Who needs jobs?

    I got Obamacare.

  9. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    I’m digging on the coal country tunes.

    Straight out of Maywood, Mr. John Prine:

  10. - muon - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    In a normal mix of power, there is baseload, intermediate and peak power. Nuclear and coal operate 24/7 and are good for the baseload. Wind can add to the intermediate and provide peak power, but it doesn’t run all the time so it can’t be counted on for baseload.

    Illinois produces more baseload and intermediate power than it needs at present, so the power sources compete to supply the intermediate load which drives down the price. The state needs to make sure that in the long run there remain sufficient sources of baseload power, so one has to be careful about shuttering plants that have a long lead time to replace.

  11. - Bigtwich - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 12:48 pm:


    “However, as of 2013 most of the new applications had been abandoned due to the low cost of electricity generated with natural gas which had become available at cheap prices due to the boom in hydraulic fracturing; gas produced using natural gas being 4 cents a kilowatt hour versus 10 cents, or more, for nuclear.[18]”

    That may be beyond legislative power.

  12. - curmudgeon - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 1:00 pm:

    Wind farms?

    Gubmint-subsidized un-economic Bird Blenders.

    I agree with Muon that they CANNOT replace the baseload. Guess the environmentalists will have to keep looking for those dilithium crystals …

  13. - Newsclown - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    Natural gas is still burning and releasing carbon; it’s just not as horrible as coal. But it also isn’t going to stay cheap forever. We should consider natural gas a transitional fuel while we upgrade our nuclear plants to the latest, safest designs.

    I would use a carrot and stick approach to Excelon, in that, we could subsidize Clinton and QC, in exchange for Excelon investing in newer generation 3 or 4 type plants for the future.

    One other idea: if the power cost is low, it could support a plant that uses a plasma arc to cleanly destroy toxic and non-toxic waste. while recovering metals and minerals for re-use. This would keep that stuff out of our dwindling landfill space, and lead to cleaner air and water as well. Excelon could make up in the waste disposal business, what it’s losing in he power business.

  14. - Demoralized - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 2:07 pm:

    Geez @VM. I guess people can work Obamacare into any conversation. *sigh*

    To the post . . . I would rather the plants be left operating and continuing to produce energy rather than just shutting them down. The complaint is that the wholesale power prices are too low for them to remain profitable. Would prices rise if those plants would shut down???

  15. - downstate commissioner - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    Have heard nothing good about wind farms from others who have them in their areas. Constantly down for one reason or another, kills birds, changes weather patterns; the only way they exist is because of go

  16. - downstate commissioner - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 2:22 pm:

    oops, hit enter by mistake. …because of govt. subsidies; have seen some reports that show that be the time they become profitable, they will be ready to be torn down. A good idea that simply doesn’t work…

  17. - Tom Joad - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 2:31 pm:

    Many of the people who are complaining about wind farms are farmers who didn’t get a wind farm on their land.

  18. - Judgment Day (Road Trip) - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 2:33 pm:

    Here’s info. about the Clinton One nuclear plant. The link is:

    Clinton One produces right around 1,065 MW of base power (it operates at mid 90% (around 94%) efficiency. So, say 1,000 MW of power.

    Even at 1.2 MW per wind tower (the big ones), it’s still going to take an additional 830+ wind towers, and that at 100% max production, 100% of the time. How’s that going to happen?

    And where you going to site them all? Why don’t we do it all along the lakeshore and all throughout the City? Then we won’t have to worry about string mass numbers of new added gates onto the existing overloaded power grid to push the power up to Chicago?

    We should put the units where the power resources are used. Ghost, how about we put some in your back yard. In case you don’t realize it, most of the ‘land’ making up the Clinton One nuclear plant is actually Clinton Lake (Hint: it’s mostly covered in water). It’s really great boating and fishing in central Illinois.

    Rahm wants to bring more business to Chicago. How about 800 or so wind towers?

  19. - Illinois Clean Energy Coalition - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 2:43 pm:

    While wind is a clean generation technology, it doesn’t blow consistently and can’t meet 24/7 demand, but it is heavily subsidized. Nuclear has enormous capacity and efficiency and has a constant cost, without any carbon emissions. Natural gas produces significant carbon emissions and its price fluctuates, sometimes widely.

    Nuclear power is not subsidized the way wind and solar are. (There is a federal backing of insurance for plants which has not cost taxpayers a single dime, ever.) It’s fate is tied to market rates that are impacted by government meddling, such as subsidies.

    Illinois has the 11th lowest electricity costs in the country and even lower in comparison to large, industrial states. We have a reliable and competitive market that helps our economy.

    The bottom line here is that the best intentions (Clean energy) have led to government distorting the market and it is having negative consequences that taxpayers will end up paying for, either in higher energy costs, power shortages, or loss of billions in economic impact.

  20. - pkd - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 2:58 pm:

    The biggest reason power prices have come down is the huge decrease in natural gas prices (i.e. fracking). That’s followed by the decline in usage (energy efficiency and the great recession). The wind issue is largely a red herring. You could eliminate all energy subsidies tomorrow and it wouldn’t change the fundamental market reality. Also, if you actually eliminated all generation subsidies tomorrow Exelon stop would drop like a rock (that insurance subsidy is GIGANTIC - see Japan).

  21. - pkd - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 2:59 pm:

    Oops, Exelon stock would drop like a rock

  22. - Illinois Clean Energy Coalition - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 3:42 pm:

    Actually, the wind tax credit is a very big factor in market prices. Wind generates the most power when demand is lowest (night/winter) and because nuclear operates 24/7 it is forced to put power on the grid essentially for free. Wind producers still make money from their tax credit even when the generate free electricity.

    So the playing field isn’t level.

    We want to move to clean energy, if we turn the marketplace upside down in the process it will hamper our economy, cost us jobs and force us to rely on sources that add to carbon emissions.

  23. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 3:52 pm:

    So sad to read these stories about how The Man keeps ComEd down.

    Fight the power!

  24. - pkd - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 3:54 pm:

    ICCC - your point is no more a “market” argument then any other position, including that from the wind industry. Consider what Exelon may be seeking here: a state-guaranteed long-term contract (by definition) at above market rates. Doesn’t exactly sound very free market. Of course that’s because energy markets aren’t exactly markets in the traditional sense. If it wasn’t for fracking and the decline of usage, exelon wouldn’t really be pushing this argument much anyway. Witness the fact that it used to be a big supporter of wind (and benefits from the exact same tax credits the wind folks do)

  25. - Illinois Clean Energy Coalition - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 4:06 pm:

    Well we don’t know yet what Exelon may want. More market manipulation just exacerbates the issue. It may be the only short-term fix they see available.

    What is clear is that if we want to reduce carbon emissions, keep an abundant and reliable supply, and competitive prices, we need out nuclear fleet to be part of our mix.

  26. - Endangered Moderate Species - Friday, Feb 7, 14 @ 4:09 pm:

    ===Have heard nothing good about wind farms from others who have them in their areas.===

    We have them in our area and there are is small, but loud opposition. The majority of people are okay with them

    . They don’t generate the revenues or payroll of a coal or nuke plant but they are better neighbors.

  27. - cleaning - Thursday, Feb 27, 14 @ 6:07 pm:

    They can be used to soak up liquids, but also when wet, they can sanitize and clean any surface.
    Assume that out of a hundred who see your advertisement approximately one person is
    interested. With a portable cleaner the cleaning is faster and
    more easy compared to upright cleaner for small areas, but of course it is far from practical to use for a whole room.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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