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Exelon CEO again threatens to close nuke plants, but his numbers are criticized as “ridiculous”

Friday, May 7, 2021

* Utility Dive

• Achieving the same amount of zero emissions power through renewables and storage would be 12 times more expensive than continuing to run Illinois’ nuclear plants and cost the state’s consumers $80 billion, Exelon CEO Chris Crane said during the company’s Q1 earnings call on Wednesday.

• State and federal officials are exploring ways to keep nuclear plants open as they are considered a key part of any plan to decarbonize the power sector. However, a proposal from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, D, to support Exelon’s Byron and Dresden plants, is “not adequate,” Crane said.

* From Crane’s comments during the earnings call

A bill needs to pass before the end of the regular session, and it needs to provide adequate support for continuing to invest in the Illinois fleet. Current market prices do not continue to meet — do not allow us to continue to meet our payroll, paying our property taxes, and covering other significant costs and risks of operating these assets. Without adequate policy, as I’ve stated, to you that we will retire uneconomic plants beginning this fall.

If you take a look at what happened in New Jersey last week, the Board concluded that the financial challenges faced by nuclear plants there justified a maximum ZEC of $10 per megawatt hour. The same voices that are arguing in Illinois that our plants are profitable were overruled in New Jersey’s decision. The commission in New Jersey emphasized that maintaining the existing nuclear plants was critical to achieving the state’s emission goals and — significantly less costly than replacing nuclear with other 0 free carbon generation. This is true in Illinois. Keeping the nuclear plants running is better option for the customers than trying to replace them with all renewables in storage. At 12 times the cost, higher cost than preserving the nuclear plants, it would cost the Illinois consumers over $80 billion more to achieve the same emissions.

That’s pretty much the same exact argument as organized labor’s front group used with me the other day.

* Back to Utility Dive

But the Union of Concerned Scientists disputed Crane’s remarks regarding the cost of replacing nuclear with renewables and storage in Illinois.

“Crane’s comment that renewables plus storage would cost 12 [times] or $80 billion more than keeping the existing nuke plants running is ridiculous. I’m guessing he’s comparing the incremental cost of keeping them running (basically the subsidies) to the all-in cost of adding new renewables plus storage and the tax credits,” said Steve Clemmer, director of energy research for the UCS Climate and Energy Program.

* During the same earnings call, ComEd CEO Joe Dominguez signaled support for the way the union proposal would change its currently lucrative formula rate

As we emerge from the formula and we come to a more normalized ROE, there will be an opportunity for expanded earnings at ComEd. […]

So some of the ideas that have been proposed are aimed at looking at a longer-term transparent investment direction coming out of the company and being reviewed by the commission. For example, the labor proposals would have us produce reports every four years, showing all the investments that we’re going to make. And it would give stakeholders an opportunity to take a look at that. We wouldn’t necessarily get an approval from that. But it would give people a good understanding of what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to invest in the system as we integrate renewables and build on the resilience of the system.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

12 Comments
  1. - Candy Dogood - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 2:53 pm:

    What is Exelon on the hook for to cover the expenses of decommissioning these plants?


  2. - Moe Berg - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 2:54 pm:

    When it comes to the matter of superseding indictments, the dissembling Chris Crane is an interesting possibility.

    Strains credulity that he didn’t know what Anne Pramaggiore was up to.

    Further strains credulity that she’d take the fall for him, if there was the possibility that cooperation would yield leniency.

    But, hey, maybe USA Lausch and his team can convince a mixed-gender jury it was all the woman, not the white man at the top.


  3. - T.S. - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 3:07 pm:

    Maybe the state should ask other utility companies the cost of running that plant if Exelon is not able to or unwilling in its current capacity? This would maybe save ratepayers from increased prices and give Exelon an exit, if that is what they want.


  4. - NotRich - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 3:09 pm:

    Rich: Thank you, thank you, thank you.. it was a long week in Springfield and I really needed to end the week with a good laugh.. Misters Crane and Dominquez are hilarious


  5. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 3:09 pm:

    Moe Berg, 1 billion percent correct. The idea that she was freelancing is pure fantasy.

    And Candy, Exelon is supposed to make regular deposits into their decommissioning fund for the plants. That money is supposed to come from corporate sources and not touch ratepayers. But Exelon has consistently failed to make adequate contributions to their decommissioning funds. Think ILGA and pensions circa 2005. Last time I checked those funds were short by more than a billion dollars. https://www.chicagobusiness.com/utilities/theres-plenty-pain-store-exelon-too-if-it-shutters-nukes


  6. - Jibba - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 3:12 pm:

    State-level subsidies and/or local ratepayer increases are not the appropriate solution when the power is sold and the benefits of nuclear accrue beyond the state. A national response is the better option.


  7. - Dysfunction Junction - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 3:21 pm:

    Wait, which of these recent posts was supposed to contain the Comedy Gold? This one is looking like El Dorado…


  8. - ItsMillerTime - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 3:34 pm:

    Is there a reason another company or the state can’t just take over the plant if they leave? Why are the only two choices to bail them around again or have the plants close them down? If these plants are such money sinks then Exelon should have no issue with selling them right?


  9. - Roman - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 3:54 pm:

    I wonder if those nuke plants in Jersey would have received those subsidies if the ownership was under indictment?


  10. - Earnest - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 4:11 pm:

    >Think ILGA and pensions circa 2005

    So, when we pass pension reform we’ll need to change not just the the contracts clause but also the laws of nuclear decay?


  11. - Todd - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 4:22 pm:

    wait, didn’t we go through the 80s with Greenpeace the Sierra club et al protesting nuke plants and telling us how bad they were and now they fit into the reduction of the carbon foot print?


  12. - Dysfunction Junction - Friday, May 7, 21 @ 4:28 pm:

    ==wait, didn’t we go through the 80s with Greenpeace the Sierra club et al protesting nuke plants==

    “Paging Dr. Kraft. Doctor Bob Kraft, please pick up the white NEIS courtesy phone.”


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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