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Crain’s: “Market-based” solution is rigged

Friday, Feb 27, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* 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.)



  1. - Tornadoman - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:12 am:

    Audacity at its finest.

  2. - MrJM - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:15 am:

    Exelon/ComEd: “The credits available to ANYONE who’s situated exactly like we are.”

    – MrJM

  3. - sss - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:21 am:

    By their own admission, this ia rigged for them. Hence all the rhetoric about needing this to stem losses at their plants to keep jobs.

    Question I have - what about out of state nuke plants bidding in? Nothing in this legislation prevents that.

    I could see savvy nuke plant from another state that can deliver power to Illinois (since you can’t constitutionally make it Illinois - only), who undercuts Exelon.

    So we get both the $300 million rate hike, and then what? Do the plants close?

    Are they willing to say they will close the plants if they don’t win the auction (the one they gamed for themselves)?

    A whole year and its still a half-baked plan.

  4. - Illini97 - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:21 am:

    That’s the hallmark of good lobbying. Get a bill out there that ostensibly opens incentives to all, then tailor it so narrowly that only one company can win.

    It’s a crappy way to do business, and I’m against it, but that’s some well done lobbying and bill-crafting, there.

  5. - PublicServant - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:26 am:

    Lousy Bill if it just funds Excelon’s Nukes preventing anyone else from bidding. Dump it in the nearest circular file.

  6. - ChelseaBlue - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:36 am:

    BUT … let it pass, and then let Governor Rauner give it the LIHEAP treatment.

  7. - northernwatersports - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:38 am:

    No way, no how.
    I’ve already paid my share for these nukes TWICE over. Yes, they are carbon free, but if we don’t let wind, solar, hydro-electric and all non-carbon sources bid on an level playing field and without restrictions, then the lobbying dollars spend by Exelon could reasonable called bribes.
    Just sayin’

  8. - Quiet Sage - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:39 am:

    Fukushima is an ongoing disaster, to which the U.S. media is paying far too little attention. There are several websites on developments at Fukushima, for example:
    The General Assembly should not pass legislation encouraging nuclear energy. Nuclear accidents are rare, but when the occur they are catastrophic. The Chicago area is ringed by these plants.

  9. - walker - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:47 am:

    Kill Bill #3

  10. - Abe the Babe - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:52 am:

    A market based bailout for ratepayer financed nuke plants that send energy out of state and which are still profitable on a portfolio basis.

    Nuclear Hutzpah

  11. - Wordslinger - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 9:54 am:

    Nobody works it better than Exelon.

    Obviously it’s rigged for them. That’s what they do.

  12. - dupage dan - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 10:08 am:

    Large corporations petitioning the gov’t to pick them as winners and keep out competition.

    Yeah, that seems fair to me.

  13. - Scott Summers - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 10:20 am:

    “…nuclear energy, which, unlike coal or natural gas, emits no carbon…”

    Yeah, yeah, here we go again. The Exelon lobsters are spinning this one like a uranium centrifuge.

    Now they’re saying that nukes are oh-so-virtuous because they don’t emit carbon.

    Gimme a freakin’ break!

    Nukes emit no carbon if one conveniently overlooks all the carbon that goes into the mining and processing of uranium ore.

    And they emit no carbon unless one conveniently overlooks the electrical energy (coal fired, perhaps?) that goes into centrifuging the stuff into fuel.

    And they emit no carbon if there’s no carbon to be involved in babysitting spent radioactive bleep for the next several dozen millenia.

    Now. Tell me that the Exelon shareholders will pick up ALL of the radioactive waste storage and plant decommissioning costs.

    If you believe that, then I have a land-based casino in Grant and Millenium Parks to sell you.

    Yeah, that’s it. No carbon from nukes. We’ll all glow in the dark instead.

    And hey! Think of how much money glowing in the dark will save us on street lighting!

  14. - SportShz - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 10:33 am:

    This bill is also happening at the same time Exelon is pursuing an additional “market based” solution from PJM. Which means if both are approved Exelon could get DOUBLE the bailout!

  15. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 10:50 am:

    This piece would have more credibility if it were by a different writer. Everything Steve Daniels writes is an anti-Exelon (or anti-ComEd) diatribe. He doesn’t even try to be objective.

  16. - VanillaMan - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 10:51 am:

    Exelon’s solution is to a problem that only Exelon is having. Whether they claim we should swallow their baloney because it is “market based”, or “market fresh” is frankly irrelevant.

    They are presenting a solution that costs us all for no benefit to any.

  17. - foster brooks - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    Keep tacking on the fee’s and surcharges you’ll be able to pull the meter and still pay $50 a month for electricity

  18. - read the bill - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 11:32 am:

    Roland -

    The bill clearly and obviously places limits on who can bid. They are exactly as described in the Crain’s piece. You can’t have a PPA longer than five years. You can’t be in ratebase as of January 1, 2015. You can be small hydro, but you can’t be big hydro. Do you deny this?

  19. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 11:34 am:

    “read the bill” is correct.

    You Exelonbots need to back up criticism with actual facts or you’ll be banned.

  20. - Pageturner - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 11:35 am:

    Roland, you probably want to back that up with some evidence that Daniels is not objective. When I read his articles I’m struck by the fact that he always seeks comment from Exelon/ComEd and they usually refuse or can’t deny his reporting. He’s far and away the best energy reporter in the Midwest primarily because he doesn’t buy anyone’s story, does his own research, and writes the facts.

    You’ll notice that his previous story about the Exelon fleet’s profitabily was not rebutted by Exelon.

  21. - Judgment Day - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 12:26 pm:

    Just a thought….

    We need more revenue for the State of Illinois….. and also, the City of Chicago….

    So, here’s an idea. Chicago is going ‘green’ with renewable power, but that is going to increase electricity costs to customers.

    Being that the state is at least $111 bil in the hole, plus a $8-9 bil operating deficit, plus out current FY budget isn’t even in balance, plus the City of Chicago has enormous unfunded pension obligations (not to mention Cook County’s pension problems) - How about we decide that increased high priced ‘Green Power’ is a stupid waste of resources, and instead direct that extra money through a rate increase into the city revenue stream to fund Chicago’s soon to be $133 mil budget hole from the proposed loss of the 50% state revenue sharing.

    Yeah, the renewable energy folks take a haircut. Too bad - everybody wants more money for the state and the City of Chicago, this is the type of decision one gets to make.

    “When they say it’s not about the money, it’s always about the money.”

  22. - okgo - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 12:57 pm:

    OK, Judgment.

    Then we just get the rate hike in a few years when the coal plants come calling and saying they need a surcharge to upgrade them because they are too old. And that if they went away, it would be catastrophe because there is nothing else there to replace them.

  23. - WWW - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 12:59 pm:

    Time for Speaker Madigan to step up and defend the pocket books of Illinois rate payers. This bill should be DOA when it hits his desk.

  24. - Judgment Day - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 1:15 pm:

    “Then we just get the rate hike in a few years when the coal plants come calling and saying they need a surcharge to upgrade them because they are too old. And that if they went away, it would be catastrophe because there is nothing else there to replace them.”

    It’s not the coal fired plants, it’s the transmission grid. There’s more than enough power generation capacity, it’s moving (wheeling) the power from the generation locations into metro Chicago area.

    If you have to spend the money (and you do have some time), spend it on what is important - and that’s the transmission grid.

  25. - Past the Rule of 85 - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 1:19 pm:

    Any word from Rauner on how the Corrupt Union Bosses were able to get this through?

  26. - okgo - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 1:33 pm:

    Judgment -

    We have no problem getting generation into Chicago. We have an over-supply, and send most of it East. That has absolutely zero to do with Illinois coal plants, which are on their last legs, from coming in for an Exelon-like surcharge.

  27. - Judgment Day - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 2:22 pm:

    “We have no problem getting generation into Chicago. We have an over-supply, and send most of it East. That has absolutely zero to do with Illinois coal plants, which are on their last legs, from coming in for an Exelon-like surcharge.”

    We have an over supply of power, but not necessarily transmission capability. Now, there are two new transmission lines (one from downstate along I-39 /I-80; the second along I-90), but that’s all I’ve seen recently.

    Don’t think there’s sufficient spare transmission capacity to wheel power from the nukes (Clinton, etc.) into Chicago metro to replace the coal fired units. That’s why we need more transmission capability.

  28. - sss - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 3:50 pm:

    “Don’t think there’s sufficient spare transmission capacity to wheel power from the nukes (Clinton, etc.) into Chicago metro to replace the coal fired units. ”

    You try to use big words like “wheel,” yet you just can’t get it right. Maybe you missed Exelon’s new 765kV transmission line they ran down along the highway to serve downtown chicago several years ago to replace the Crawford and Fisk issue. Your red herring is pink!

    We need more transmission, but only if it means bringing it in from new wind farms where there isn’t already infrastructure.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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