- The Illinois Commerce Commission has allowed Ameren to reduce energy efficiency goals in a savings plan developed to meet the requirements of last year's Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814).
- The Monday decision reverses course on an August draft order proposed by an Administrative Law Judge that rejected the utility's request.
- The Environmental Defense Fund called Ameren's plan "egregious," and said it would appeal the ICC's decision.
State regulators' decision to allow Ameren to reduce its energy savings plan immediately drew criticism from environmental advocates who said consumers will wind up paying more in the long run.
Ameren is "abandoning its energy efficiency commitments, meaning fewer customers will get help lowering their energy bills, and those who do will be saving less," EDF Manager of Clean Energy Regulatory Implementation Christie Hicks said in a statement.
The law required Ameren to meet an efficiency target of 16% by 2030 relative to average annual electricity sales over the past three years. While the utility requested about a 27% reduction to those targets, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a smaller decrease, according to Chicago Tonight WTTW.
Ameren was supposed to be on track to hit 9.8% efficiency savings by 2021, but the utility previously conceded it was likely to reach only 8.24%.
"By approving the utility’s egregious plan, the Illinois Commerce Commission disappointingly chose to ignore the thorough recommendation of its own administrative law judge. The decision robs people in central and southern Illinois of the cleaner air, lower bills, and clean energy job opportunities they were promised by the Future Energy Jobs Act," Hicks said.
A reset of the efficiency targets was considered because Ameren has maxed out its annual budget of $114 million. The utility told regulators that unique factors on its system meant that it would need to spend in excess of 40% more per kWh on savings, relative to Commonwealth Edison.
In testimony filed on behalf of Ameren, a consultant explained to regulators that the utility's customers are "more spread out, reside in multiple media markets, have less discretionary funding for energy efficiency and lower education levels ... The combination of these differences makes recruiting for program participation more difficult and more expensive. Less program participation derives fewer savings and therefore makes achieving the current unmodified savings goals on the aggregate that much more unrealistic.”
The Future Energy Jobs Act tackles many sectors of the industry, from energy efficiency to net metering, but central to the law is the bailout of two nuclear plants, Clinton and Quad Cities. Lawmakers established a zero emission credit program for the Exelon plants, under which they will receive payments for 10 years.