* Exelon argues that its bill to keep its nuke plants open is a “market based” solution. But is it? An analysis by Crain’s is highly skeptical…
The measure would slap an electric-bill surcharge of about $2 a month on the average household served by Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois, creating more than $300 million of extra annual revenue to be distributed over the next five years to low-carbon energy sources. Those include obvious examples such as wind and solar—but also nuclear energy, which, unlike coal or natural gas, emits no carbon.
The legislation effectively would funnel most if not all of the $300 million to Exelon’s Illinois nuclear plants, the largest state fleet in the nation. But Chicago-based Exelon, which also owns ComEd, went out of its way to argue that the bill allows low-carbon sources of all types to bid for the special credits to be made available via an auction conducted by the Illinois Power Agency. […]
But the bill places such great limits on bidders other than Exelon’s Illinois nukes that Exelon is highly likely to win most if not all of the credits.
For example, generators with contracts of five years or longer to sell their output can’t bid. That keeps out most existing wind farms and utility-scale solar, which have such contracts. For those few wind farms that sell into the wholesale markets, they’re only eligible if they don’t already have renewable energy credit from Illinois or some other state. That’s a relatively small pool of projects, renewable industry representatives say.
The bill also limits eligible hydro producers to no more than 3 megawatts. The capacity of Exelon’s Illinois plants collectively is more than 11,600 megawatts. There are no nearby clean coal plants to speak of, so those won’t be bidding. […]
Once again, as it has before, Exelon refused to say whether its Illinois fleet as a whole is profitable. (In an analysis, Crain’s showed previously that it is.)