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Dueling press releases

Thursday, Feb 26, 2015

* From the Exelon folks…

A bipartisan group of legislators, along with business, labor and community leaders, today announced their support for legislation creating a state Low Carbon Portfolio Standard that establishes Illinois as a national leader in efforts to reduce carbon emissions with minimal consumer impacts.

Introduced in both the Senate as SB 1585 and the House as HB 3293, the legislation would help reduce carbon emissions, increase renewable energy and maintain affordable, reliable electricity for consumers and businesses. In addition, the measure will ensure continued operations of the state’s nuclear power plants, which are responsible for nearly half of all electricity produced in Illinois. The market-based solution is modeled after findings from a recent HR 1146 report prepared by four state agencies that analyzed the economic, environmental and reliability impacts of premature nuclear plant closures in Illinois.

Under the proposed legislation, certain electric utilities would be required to purchase low-carbon energy credits to match 70 percent of electricity used on the distribution system from qualified sources, which include solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, tidal, wave and clean coal. The legislation includes safeguards to protect consumers similar to those for Illinois’ other clean energy programs. For example, a consumer price cap would limit the impact to a 2.015 percent annual increase compared to 2009 rates, or about $2/month for the average Illinois residential electricity customer, less than the increase customers would face if the nuclear plants close early. In addition, if wholesale electric prices exceed a certain level, any excess revenues would be rebated to all Illinois electric customers on their bills.

* The opposition responds…

AARP Illinois and the BEST Coalition are urging state lawmakers to reject legislation written by Exelon Corporation lobbyists that would increase electric bills in order to bail out Exelon’s nuclear plants. Introduced Thursday, Exelon’s “Low Carbon Portfolio Standard” would force ComEd and Ameren customers in Illinois to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in additional charges on their electric bills.

The legislation is opposed by many groups including AARP Illinois and the Better Energy Solutions for Tomorrow (BEST) Coalition, a grassroots coalition advocating for smart energy policy in Illinois.

“This bill rewrites Illinois energy policy to increase costs for public and private entities statewide and benefits only Exelon,” said Steve Davis, Legislative Co-Chair for Illinois Association of Wastewater Agencies, a BEST Coalition member. “Policy like this will increase the cost of doing business in Illinois and make Illinois less competitive.”

“Exelon made more than $2 billion last year, and here they are begging for a bailout on the backs of working Illinoisans,” said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. “This bill would increase rates for older adults living on fixed incomes, working families and small businesses in order to pad Exelon’s profits. We will work on behalf of our 1.7 million Illinois members to urge legislators to vote ‘no’ on this bill.”

An analysis by Crain’s Chicago Business in 2014 found that Exelon’s Illinois nuclear fleet is profitable. Despite seeking a bailout, Exelon has refused to disclose any data to verify its claims that the company’s Illinois nuclear plants are suffering unsustainable losses. In recent earnings announcements, Exelon CEO Chris Crane stated “Exelon had a strong year, both operationally and financially…our generation fleet and utilities continued to perform at high levels.”

“It’s unfortunate that Exelon has chosen to scare local communities by threatening to close Illinois nuclear plants when in fact those plants are profitable and about to get a huge infusion of additional ratepayer money from struggling Illinois consumers and businesses. Exelon simply does not need a bailout,” said Dave Lundy, spokesman for the BEST Coalition. “Exelon claims they’re not asking for a bailout. But you know what they say about a duck. If it looks like a bailout and acts like a bailout and quacks like a bailout, it’s a bailout.”

Even if Exelon has financial issues with its Illinois nuclear fleet, which is contrary to publicly available information, those issues will be resolved when Exelon begins receiving hundreds of millions more ratepayer dollars each year because of changes in grid regulation pushed by Exelon. Additionally, a recently approved rate increase for Exelon’s subsidiary ComEd took effect in January 2015 that will increase ComEd revenue by approximately $232 million.

The groups also have a fact check that you can read by clicking here.

* Crain’s tries to sort it out

The new low-carbon credits would establish a revenue stream between $200 million and $300 million, or perhaps more, according to sources who have been briefed. That would aid operators of existing plants like Exelon’s that are seeing revenues decline due to persistently low natural gas prices. Wholesale power prices correlate strongly to natural gas costs, particularly now with gas accounting for a greater percentage of power generation in the regional grid in which Exelon competes.

DISTRIBUTION COSTS INCLUDED

Utilities would be charged with collecting the surcharge for generators like Exelon on the portion of the electric bill that covers distribution costs. That would be a marked contrast with the set-aside for renewables, the cost of which is embedded in the part of the bill that covers the cost of energy itself.

That distinction has crippled the effectiveness of the renewable law. The Illinois Power Agency is supposed to ensure that increasing percentages of consumers’ electricity come from clean sources. But with a majority of households getting their power from suppliers other than Commonwealth Edison or other utilities, the IPA has been unable to spend much on renewable purchases.

In recent years, renewable energy companies have pushed for a change in the law to have the money collected via distribution charges the same way Exelon is proposing to collect the new funds for low-carbon sources. But those bills died, largely due to opposition from politically potent Exelon and its Chicago utility, ComEd.

…Adding… From the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition…

“There is only one comprehensive energy bill that costs less to consumers, promotes a cleaner environment and will create tens of thousands of new jobs in every part of Illinois — that’s the Illinois Clean Jobs bill. Introduced by Sen. Don Harmon and Rep. Elaine Nekritz with bipartisan support, when fully implemented the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill will create 32,000 new clean energy jobs per year by growing renewable energy and raising energy efficiency while giving Illinois a greater set of tools to help consumers, including the option of market-based strategies to reduce carbon pollution.

“The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill sets a long-term clean energy policy that creates jobs — rather than sunsetting soon, missing opportunities to create jobs and raising the risk that consumers will again be asked to pay more in just a few short years.

“We look forward to reading Exelon’s proposed bill more closely. But mostly, we look forward to discussing this issue in the months ahead, and we will continue to urge lawmakers to join their colleagues from both parties who have sponsored the bipartisan Illinois Clean Jobs Bill to enhance our environment and to create 32,000 new jobs per year.”

They also have a video. Click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Hello, I must be going…

Thursday, Feb 26, 2015

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service

Illinois’ new Governor is sending a strong message to his cabinet, saying they have a moral obligation to report problems to his office. During a cabinet meeting at the capitol Wednesday afternoon Governor Bruce Rauner said the challenges facing Illinois are enormous and he encouraged department heads to look outside the box for solutions. Rauner says the team he’s put in place must report to him things previous executives may not have wanted to hear.

“You have a strong feeling in your heart as what’s right, you say so. You do not hold it back. And if you see something going on that you know is wrong you have a moral obligation to say so and bring it up. Don’t hold it back, bring it up. Let’s fix it. I can’t fix a problem I don’t know about. And I want to empower you. I’ve got your back. We’ve got to break some china, we’ve gotta change some things.”

Rauner said he wants his cabinet members to bring their disagreements forward so they can work through the problems facing the state. He also reiterated that he wants to reward employees who find taxpayers savings. The Governor says his job is to make his cabinet more effective and that in two years the state will be on a different trajectory.

* Tribune

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday convened what was billed as the first meeting of his Cabinet, telling agency leaders that they’ll be asked to do more with less, but that he’s willing to “take the arrows” along the way.

“I wish this year was going to be all happy, and you know, happy feet. This is not going to be a happy feet year,” Rauner told the group of about 50 officials gathered in a Capitol meeting room. “This is going to be pretty rough, but we’re going to get through it. And I tell you, in 24 months we’re going to be on a very different trajectory as a state.” […]

“I’ve got your backs,” Rauner said. “You do what’s right, you take tough decisions, you do what you know in your heart is in the best interest of the people, I will protect you. I will work for you. I will make sure you get support, and in time, resources.”

Rauner spoke for about 10 minutes with cameras rolling but then left the meeting, which was taken over by his deputy governor, Trey Childress.

* WUIS

At the end of his nearly ten minute, unscripted speech, the officials applauded. Then Rauner took off — more meetings, he said.

What the cabinet talked about next is hard to say.

Upon exciting, one of the attendees said they’d just been “instructed not to talk to the media.”

* Give the governor credit for generating positive media coverage of that dog and pony show. And ordering his cabinet members to keep quiet meant that nobody stepped on his message.

But, geez, that whole thing was nothing but a bunch of empty staged hype. Have a look

I want to listen. Come to me with your problems. I’m here for you, except I gotta split without taking any questions. Now, turn off the cameras and be quiet while my guy tells you what’s what.

- Posted by Rich Miller   85 Comments      


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