Plug pulled on Exelon bill
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - Posted by Rich Miller
* The Turnaround Agenda and the budget aren’t the only things crashing and burning this year. Exelon’s bill isn’t being called for a vote…
The sponsor of a bill aimed at remaking Illinois’ electric utility landscape and saving the Clinton nuclear power plant said Monday the legislation won’t be passed before today’s deadline set by Exelon Corp.
And Exelon officials said they’d reveal “within the next few days” how the failure to pass the bill would affect the future of the power plant and its 700 employees.
Exelon had warned earlier that it needed the Legislature to act by May 31, or it would begin a lengthy process to shut down the 29-year-old nuclear plant by next summer. The plant about 30 miles west of Champaign makes up about half of the assessed valuation in DeWitt County. […]
The chief sponsor of SB 1585, Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, said groups involved in its negotiations had met as recently as last Friday.
“Time has run out,” said Trotter. “I’m disappointed because I saw and heard, by sitting in those meetings, that there was some movement. It was just one or two entities — and I’m not going to name them — who I think were intentially slowing the process down.
* The Peoria Journal Star’s editorial board doesn’t think that’s a bad thing, and they point to a local employer for proof…
Keystone Steel & Wire, which employs 1,000 here in the Peoria area and is among the last of its kind in the United States, has objected to the $1.1 million cost to its bottom line and the degree to which it imperils its workforce. The bill “threatens to put us at a competitive disadvantage in a fragile economy,” Keystone Vice President Mark Brachbill testified before a legislative committee earlier this month. “These cost increases will not be realized by neighboring states or our international competitors, which will make passing along the increased costs impossible in the current business climate.”
Meanwhile, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office opposes the current legislation, as does the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), the consumer watchdog group. Among the concerns is that there are not enough consumer protections, especially if prices rebound for the utility. Meanwhile, they think there is still time to explore better, perhaps market-based solutions to keep those plants open. Exelon seems to think not, saying “the capacity market alone can’t preserve zero-carbon emitting nuclear plants that are facing the lowest wholesale energy prices in 15 years.” We’d still prefer that all other options be exhausted first.
For its part, CUB acknowledges that the threat of plant closure is real, that this is a better bill than previous efforts — last year’s version would have sent $300 million annually Exelon’s way whether the plants were profitable or not, this year’s about half that — that it’s important to keep this more environmentally friendly, reliable energy source around. Nonetheless, “there is still significant work to be done relating to consumer protections, the role of Ameren, ensuring that there is a full and functional Renewable Portfolio Standard, and giving customers the tools to better manage their energy use … This is a step forward, but we’re not there yet.”
* Why is Dynegy idling Illinois coal plants? It’s more complicated than ‘the war on coal’: Every year, MISO, the grid manager for Southern Illinois, Eastern Missouri and parts of 13 other states, holds a so-called “capacity auction” that determines the price paid to power plant operators that agree to be ready to pump electricity into the grid when demand is highest. Downstate Illinois is deregulated, so Ameren Illinois customers can shop for power from different sources. Most of MISO, on the other hand, is made up of regulated utilities such as Ameren Missouri that own both the wires and the power plants. They’re guaranteed a rate of return by state commissions. Dynegy argues that those regulated utilities don’t rely on the capacity auctions to recover costs but can sell their electricity into a deregulated market such as Southern Illinois at low prices that depress rates.