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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
  1. - walker - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 10:38 am:

    Wow! That framing would make Rove or Axelrod proud.

    “Give me money to save the planet.”


  2. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 10:49 am:

    Exelon invested in nuclear and is losing that investment because of the plummeting availability of natural gas. It doesn’t want us to recognize natural gas as a better, cheaper and safer energy choice than nuclear power.

    What Exelon is trying to do is get us to buy into a nuclear future, offsetting their losses before the energy markets complete shifts away from nuclear, closing that chapter in energy production for now and the near future.

    Ironically they are trying to get us to buy into the idea that global warming concerns over carbon suggests a future for nuclear, when we already are seeing that natural gas is the cheaper way to reach those carbon emission goals.

    When Exelon bought nuclear plants, it looked like a safe bet in a world that believed that we were running out of fossil fuels. Not only have we not run out, we have enough for more than a century. Exelon lost was it thought was a safe bet.

    So what do we do now? We have piles of soft Illinois coal too dirty to use safely and it looks like we will end up with these nuclear power plants along with their deadly waste byproducts possibly idle.

    Besides, it isn’t like Exelon isn’t squeezing out a profit from these plants. They are just getting antsy over how this once-safe investment is no longer safe.


  3. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 10:51 am:

    “plummeting”?

    Wow - I got twisted over “plummeting” energy prices and “increasing” availability!

    LOL


  4. - BEST Dave - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 10:53 am:

    Exelon is asking to be paid more for power they already generate in Illinois. This will do exactly ZERO to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Any effort to argue otherwise is simply not credible.


  5. - Illinois Clean Energy Coalition - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 11:15 am:

    The facts are pretty clear, we cannot hope to make real reductions in carbon emissions without our nuclear sources. Other low carbon sources, as great as they are, just can’t yet come close to the level of generation of nuclear. Real carbon reductions must include a recognition of the value of nuclear.


  6. - foster brooks - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 11:24 am:

    Everyone complains about taxes, at the rate comed is getting Increases approved from the GA where is the outrage from rauner?


  7. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 11:25 am:

    Exelon sure got all green after they sold their coal burners.

    But don’t bet against them. Most powerful special interest in the state. All those jobs, all that money for political campaigns from government approved rates.

    I’m sure the gov will get on that “corrupt” relationship shortly.


  8. - BEST Dave - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 11:37 am:

    The Illinois Clean Energy Coalition is not related to the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, right?


  9. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 11:42 am:

    Legislative committees should subpoena the nuke records if Exelon won’t turn them over.


  10. - O&M - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 11:49 am:

    @ICEC:
    First, the “value” of nuclear has been recognized by Illinois ratepayers four times over.
    Second, how can the value of Exelon’s nuclear fleet be assessed if Exelon hides its costs?
    “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.”


  11. - Arquimedez Pozo - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:06 pm:

    Behind one door another increase in bills coupled with a continuation of the status quo. Behind the other door hundreds of millions of new investment in Illinois, tens of thousands of good new jobs, cleaner air and water and lower electric bills for consumers across the state. Gonna be a nail-biter.


  12. - okgo - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:15 pm:

    Don’t worry Exelon, Governor Rauner will sweep your new surcharge right into GRF!


  13. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:29 pm:

    The facts are pretty clear, we cannot hope to make real reductions in carbon emissions without our nuclear sources.

    Sounds like you are really sold on it. Bully for you!

    I’m not. The reason is because of “balance”. We have to balance the energy needs of citizens, we have to balance the affordability of that energy, and we need to balance the environmental impact of producing it.

    We currently have excess capacity. Needs are being met. Illinois is not a booming economy. The capacity we currently have is more than sufficient. Couple it with the fact that we’ve had a generation of energy efficiency awareness and enforcement, infrastructure improvements and retirement of older systems, and we are doing more with less energy.

    Energy prices have fallen due to the fracking boom. That isn’t going away anytime soon. Natural gas has transformed the energy industry. Greenhouse gas emission standards are being met. Couple it with the increasing awareness of the uncertainty over the negative correlation between greenhouse gases and global warming and it is possible that the future is far less panicked over these environmental issues than Washington currently exhibits.

    Which leads us to environmental issues. Fracking has been scientifically proven to be far safer than what is done in any nuclear energy facility. Attempts to sell us the idea that nuclear power is a good environmental choice is hard to do after two generations of being shown the danger of nuclear energy.

    Germany no longer uses nuclear energy because of the negative environmental impacts generated, right along with that electricity. I’m not buying the idea that our environment suddenly needs nuclear power generating radioactive nuclear waste.

    When we take everything into balance, we also have to include the fact that Illinois has heavily invested into nuclear. We got them here, now. Wishing them away won’t work. Can the costs of leaving nuclear power behind in the 20th Century, along with typewriters and telegraphs ever be met without a huge loss? Illinois has a fleet of White Elephants with normal lifecycles, but with trans-millennium lifecycle poop. The electricity generated to use that Norelco men’s electric shaver for five minutes one morning, back in 1971, created nuclear waste that won’t be safe until 10,000 years afterwards.

    Telling me that nuclear energy is a key to our environmental needs is like telling me that cigarettes cure cancer.

    We got a problem. Your solution won’t help us - only you. No deal.


  14. - Apocalypse Now - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:48 pm:

    Who is providing funding for BEST coalition?


  15. - A guy - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:52 pm:

    Dueling press releases…

    The only thing missing is the banjo music.

    Where’s Sheila when you need her.


  16. - Solar at Night - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:33 pm:

    VanillaMan- the x factor you are missing is the pending 111d rules coming out of US EPA. Illinois will not be able to comply with the proposed standards without all of the current nuclear fleet intact.


  17. - Pete BEST - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:03 pm:

    Let’s remember that the whole issue of plants closing is an issue Exelon created. No one would have to “save” Exelon’s nukes if they weren’t threatening to close them. They won’t provide financials to prove they need a bailout, but they’ll threaten to fire thousands of people if we don’t give it to them. And if we give it to them, they might still close plants anyway.


  18. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:47 pm:

    VM, Germany has made up for its zealous, and some would say overzealous, dispensation of nuclear power by burning a substantial amount of coal when they couldn’t make up the difference any other way. Wooops.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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