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Utilities behaving badly

Monday, Apr 25, 2016

* The Belleville News-Democrat has a new editorial about “consumer math”

The wholesale cost of electricity is $17 per megawatt hour and increases to $150 per megawatt hour, increasing the consumer cost by $131 a year. What will a drop to $72 per megawatt hour save that same consumer in a year? A: $21. B: $71. C: We could explain it, but there’s a lot of consumer math involved. You wouldn’t understand.

The answer is A.

See? That’s consumer math. It doesn’t ever work out to the consumer’s advantage.

Ameren Illinois customers paid out $131 more when the wholesale electricity cost surged, but then when it dropped to less than half at the most recent auction the expected savings will not be less than half that increase, as one might expect. You’ll save about $21 in the coming year.

* Meanwhile, Crain’s reports how ComEd is derailing solar projects

Commonwealth Edison’s leaders rarely miss a chance to tout how the evolving smart grid is ushering in green technologies and customer choice.

But while solar power grows in other states, including those with climates similar to Illinois’ like Minnesota, the industry essentially doesn’t exist here. In ComEd’s vast service territory, with 3.6 million households, there are little more than 500 residential rooftop solar customers.

In Chicago itself, residential solar power is nearly nonexistent, in large part because so many residents don’t own or control access to a roof on which to place solar panels.

Solar industry representatives and their environmentalist supporters say the lack of inroads here is no accident. ComEd recently went out of its way to halt a state rule aimed at jump-starting one of the most promising new technologies—solar energy fields built to serve groups of customers in densely populated areas like Chicago.

The company’s “plan” is here.

* OK, now look at this story about Exelon’s desire to close the Clinton nuke plant

In an October 2015 report on the implications of a shutdown of Exelon’s three Illinois plants, The Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group, noted that “over the past 10 years, the (Illinois’ 11 reactors) … have operated at 96 percent of capacity, which is above the industry average and signifcantly higher than all other forms of electric generation.” […]

“The average consumer could pay twice as much for electricity” if the [Clinton] plant closes, contends Stoner. Estimates from a state study indicate that wholesale energy prices could rise by as much as $341 annually for families and businesses in the surrounding region.

Perhaps produce less electricity? I dunno. But if prices are too low with all plants running at almost full capacity, and if prices will skyrocket if one plant is shuttered, perhaps they could come up with an Exelon-based power management decision that doesn’t require a ratepayer bailout?

[Story changed a bit because I had a brain freeze. Still recovering from last week, I think. Sorry.]

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 2:04 pm:

    Ugh. Ameren almost makes Exelon look reasonable.

  2. - BEST Dave - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 2:09 pm:

    So ComEd touts solar even as it works in JCAR to kill solar. Makes sense - they want the PR value of solar but none of the kilowatt hours. Meanwhile, they double down with legislators claiming they’re losing money from plants that we know are profitable (Byron) or at least break-even (Quad Cities). You ever get the sense you’re not being told the real story by these guys? You betcha.

  3. - A guy - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 2:11 pm:

    Are utilities even capable of acting goodly?

  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 2:15 pm:

    Government-guaranteed profits to dish out as campaign contributions, plus thousands of good jobs to dole out to clout-heavy politicians all over Northern Illinois.

    I wonder why ComEd gets everything they want?

  5. - SportShz - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 2:52 pm:

    I’m utterly shocked /s
    Plus ComEd wants to IL to become the first state to switch customers to untested “Demand Charges” because those 500 people with solar panels are just too much for them. These utilities are just un-real in their constant asks while the real people of IL are struggling and the state is still without a budget. smh

  6. - Retired - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 2:55 pm:

    When did ComEd build a nuclear plant in Dixon, Illinois? Bet the residents wonder where it’s located, too.

  7. - Reformed Public Servant - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 3:29 pm:

    Looks like the makings for another IL Attorney General investigation of ComEd …

  8. - South Illinoisian - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 3:35 pm:

    Ameren is the bane of Southern Illinois utility customers. Seems like they file for rate hikes while their current request is still pending or just after a request has been granted.

  9. - Anon221 - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 3:56 pm:

    From today’s Sen. Daniel Bliss’s post- “Take advantage of our assets and retool for a high-skill, high-wage modern economy. This might be the most controversial of the principles, but it is also the most important. We can no longer afford to ignore the changes that have swept the Midwest. We have to acknowledge them in our policies, and we need to chart a bold new economic course.”

    From Forbes- Even Indy made the top 16!

    And then there’s the Chicago “500”… pitiful.

  10. - Adam Smith - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 4:12 pm:

    Nuclear plants can’t gauge up and down the amount of power they product. If they are “on” they are on 100%. They can’t produce at 50% or 20% depending on demand. They were envisioned and designed to produce base load power. All or nothing.

    This is one of those sticky little facts about the energy markets that few people know or consider when offering up solutions.

  11. - Anon221 - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 4:24 pm:

    Question to the Post-

    What happened to energy prices and consumption a few years ago when the Clinton Plant was forced to shutdown by the NRC because of some severe repair work? It was down for over 2 years. Illinois didn’t fall into an energy crisis, did it??? Even then, renewables weren’t as prevalent then as they are now, nor had we had the natural gas glut. And, yes, there may be some more overall usage, but there have also been energy efficiencies too in that time period.,5430326&hl=en

  12. - Longsummer - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 4:30 pm:

    Adam Smith,
    Clinton had a capacity factor of 58.6 in 1999. Tell us again how nuclear plants can only be run at full bore… Lol get your facts straight

  13. - Anon221 - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 4:35 pm:

    More on the 2.7 years Clinton was shutdown-

  14. - Anon221 - Monday, Apr 25, 16 @ 4:36 pm:

    Clinton’s shutdown info

  15. - BadCOAL - Tuesday, Apr 26, 16 @ 7:46 am:

    Well, I see the coal lobby is still out there touting this as a bailout - wouldn’t they love to see these plants close so their funders can see your electric bills go up resulting in higher earnings for coal aging plants. Ever get the feeling that some people aren’t who they say they are?

  16. - TruthBeTold - Tuesday, Apr 26, 16 @ 4:37 pm:

    NRG is not on this list of bad utilities. I see one of their PR guys who is lobbying against nuclear is on here spreading misinformation again. I doubt he has the guts to come out and say who he really is though. “Betcha” I’m right.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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