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A weakened ComEd/Exelon could be a boon to renewable energy companies

Monday, Jan 27, 2020

* From Brian Mackey’s interview of Gov. JB Pritzker

Mackey: Clean energy legislation has been tied to demands from the electric utility ComEd and parent company Exelon. Given the federal investigation, is that green energy initiative dead on account of that, or should it be handled separately?

Pritzker: Oh, it is very much alive. Getting Illinois to comply, to move forward in our desire to bring more clean energy, to bring more renewable energy to our state — that’s something that I believe very strongly, and we’re going to be working on during this spring session.

We also have other major utilities that we need to consider. As you know, we produce a lot of nuclear power in the state. We produce a lot of other power, and all of that needs to be taken into consideration as we look to create a more environmentally friendly energy production, and as we try to lower costs for people across the state, and continue to be one of the most attractive states in terms of energy prices. […]

Mackey: When you say nuclear energy, that means Exelon and that means the potential of federal investigators listening in on phone calls. Do you feel confident you can negotiate on that topic with that company?

Pritzker: Well what I know is that you can’t do energy legislation that’s all-encompassing for the state without considering nuclear energy and other forms of production of energy. So we’ve got to consider all of that in the negotiations. And who represents them or that interest is yet to be seen, but important to me that they clean up their act and that if — whatever it is that the federal government discovers — that they act quickly so that we can move forward, because we’ve got to address the energy needs of our state and we’ve got to move toward cleaner energy.

* More from Steve Daniels at Crain’s

That makes newly elected Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, key to whatever happens. Harmon says in an interview that Pritzker’s comments have changed the dynamic in Springfield, making energy legislation at least possible, unlike in the fall when the ComEd-related controversy was raging. “I’m pleased with the governor’s renewed interest,” Harmon says.

But Harmon acknowledges the task will be difficult, given disagreements between many renewable-energy developers and the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, the consumer and environmental groups backing the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act, about how best to incentivize more wind and solar projects in Illinois.

“I have long been a supporter of renewables,” he says. “I support the aims of CEJA. We have to reconcile the ingredients of several of these bills.”

He emphasizes that renewable developers need to be confident they can finance their projects, signaling that they will have a stronger-than-usual say in whether something comprehensive can pass in the spring. Instead of CEJA, those developers have pushed for the Path to 100 bill that would boost the monthly ratepayer charge to support more renewable projects in Illinois.

Asked about Exelon, Harmon says the traditionally clout-heavy company’s loss of influence may help. “I have long wanted a truly level playing field in comprehensive energy legislation.”

Emphasis added because the renewable energy producers have been essentially shut out of the CEJA machinations. With ComEd and Exelon politically weakened by the federal probe and Harmon’s ascension to the senate presidency and a governor who has railed against the companies in the recent past, Path to 100 has a much better shot this year.

* From a Path to 100 press release…

An analysis of Illinois Power Agency data shows that wind and solar projects contracted in Illinois between 2017 and 2019 will create nearly $5 billion of private investment as well as more than 14,500 new direct and indirect jobs by the end of 2020. But the industry will lose jobs after 2020 due to a funding cliff in the state’s renewable energy policy.

Data from the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) shows that more than 7,000 small-scale and community solar projects totaling 490 MW are already online or in development across the state (view map of solar projects and businesses here). In addition, the IPA has contracted for renewable energy credits from utility-scale wind and solar projects that are expected to drive the construction of more than 2,500 MW of new large-scale installations by 2021. Illinois uses renewable energy credits to fulfill its statutory requirement of 25% renewable energy by 2025. The current contracts will only allow the state to reach roughly 7% renewable energy by the end of 2020.

The boom in jobs and investment, driven by the IPA’s renewable energy procurements in 2018 and 2019, will support new project construction through 2020. But funding limits in the state’s policy mean the current boom will be followed by a bust. The IPA will not procure energy in 2020 for new commercial solar, community solar or utility-scale wind and solar projects. IPA’s renewable energy procurement plan predicts the impending bust on its first page: “absent legislative changes, RPS budget limitations will constrain the ability of the Agency to conduct additional procurements or expand program capacity…”

Renewable energy and labor groups are advocating during Illinois’ spring legislative session for the passage of the Path to 100 Act, which would expand Illinois’ clean energy programs and prevent a boom-and-bust cycle.

* Meanwhile, some Republicans are turning the cannons around on their fellow comrades…

One of the co-sponsors of that bill is Rep. Grant Wehrli, a Naperville Republican who has not ever been considered a socialist.

* Illinois Review

Downstate lawmaker State Rep. Blaine Wilhour was not happy with Wehrli’s move.

“Fantasy land policies like this are devastating to working class jobs. CEJA is a notch on a far left political agenda and nothing but a feel good political talking point,” he said.

“If we want to stop being minority party in Illinois we have to become leaders and we must present real ideas. Adopting far left ideas into our rhetoric is and will continue to be a losing strategy for the American worker,” Wilhour said. […]

“It is bad for workers, it is bad for consumers, it is bad for job creation and it is not even realistic,” Wilhour said. “It disappoints me that some are willing to sacrifice working class jobs to advance a far left political agenda. There are ways to move toward clean energy without fleecing consumers and forcing workers (mostly in my district and my part of the state) out of head of household jobs. We need common sense leadership not Democrat talking points.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Demoralized - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 10:43 am:

    ==If we want to stop being minority party==

    You may also want to stop advocating policies that the voters don’t agree with. I feel like sometimes people think if they say something enough times that eventually people will have some sort of epiphany and all of a sudden agree with them. The key for the Republicans is finding policies that will get more of them elected. Not shouting at the wind and hoping.

  2. - SAP - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 10:53 am:

    “I’m pleased with the governor’s renewed interest,”. Sounds like there is some work left to do on thawing out the Pritzker-Harmon relationship.

  3. - Unpopular - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 11:01 am:

    Wilhour needs a talk show, not a political office. Call it the Wilhour Hour. Then he can holler about socialism all he wants, and actually have someone listening.

  4. - TheInvisibleMan - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 12:11 pm:

    So Rep Wilhour is the southern equivalent of Skillicorn?

    Anyone remember when Skillicorn was telling people that repeal of net neutrality would lead to drastically lower costs and higher speeds for illinois residents within 12 months.

    Similarly, what ComEd is doing with their ‘delivery fees’ is absurd to think they are acting in the best interests of their customers.

    ComEd absolutely needs to be weakened, for many more reasons than the example above.

  5. - Huh? - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 12:38 pm:

    “We need common sense leadership not rehashed republican talking points.”

    Lead, follow, but get out of the way. Back bench yappers are a nuisance. If you aren’t going to present a viable proposal, sit down and keep your mouth shut.

  6. - Loop Lady - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 2:33 pm:

    One can only hope…so tired of the stranglehold Com Ed
    has over millions of customers in Northern IL…
    Time for some real competition…

  7. - Harvest76 - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 3:26 pm:

    “If we want to stop being minority party in Illinois we have to become leaders and we must present real ideas.”

    And he will start by saying no to someone else’s idea but not put forth an alternative?

  8. - DuPage - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 4:30 pm:

    @- Loop Lady - Monday, Jan 27, 20 @ 2:33 pm:

    ===One can only hope…so tired of the stranglehold Com Ed
    has over millions of customers in Northern IL…
    Time for some real competition…===

    (From an article in the Mendota Reporter)=Hans Detweiler, vice president of Clean Line Energy Partners, responded to the Illinois Supreme Court ruling in a written statement:

    “The Illinois Supreme Court faulted our Rock Island Clean Line application for having an option agreement to purchase the converter station parcel instead of having a fully exercised purchase agreement at the time of our application to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). On that basis, the application has been rejected. This causes great delay for the project and will directly impact competition in electricity markets, resulting in fewer choices and higher prices for electricity. It is unfortunate that Illinois now has higher barriers for new market entrants.

    Although we are disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling on the Rock Island Clean Line, on the positive side, the decision did not impact the authority of the ICC, and the Court made clear that we have an opportunity to refile with the ICC at a later date.”=

    It was estimated that allowing the company to build their project would save Illinois residents $240million per year on their electric bills. How much ratepayer money was spent by Comed to delay this project?

  9. - Scott Thorsen - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 3:37 pm:

    We did not deregulated the energy industry so Democrats can give it to there lobbyist at the wind energy industry.

    Wind energy can compete with everyone else without sweetheart deals to Democrats where Illinois residents pay more.

    Inspite what Don Harmon says, Exelon is a great corporate neighbor and provides some of the best paying jobs in Illinois.

    Wind energy is just too expensive.

  10. - Harvest76 - Tuesday, Jan 28, 20 @ 3:39 pm:

    Scott Thorsen, is this snark? Surely you aren’t saying this with a straight face, right?

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