- Commonwealth Edison and Exelon on Thursday announced their support for new sweeping energy legislation in Illinois that addresses issues ranging from Exelon’s nuclear power plants, solar power growth, residential rate reform, microgrids, energy efficiency, and changes to how the state’s renewable portfolio standard works.
- The Next Generation Energy Plan is a compilation of many of the major elements of three bills backed by Exelon, ComEd and the Clean Jobs Coalition that did not win approval in the last legislative session. Without its passage, Exelon plans to retire the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants in the state, the company said in its earnings release Friday.
- The bill calls for just over $1 billion in funding for low-income assistance programs, energy efficiency programs and solar power deployments. ComEd says the bill would result in an average monthly impact on customers’ bills of $0.25.
Efforts to move the energy bills through the Illinois’ General Assembly failed in the last legislative session, and sources in the state told Utility Dive last month the prospects for pushing through all three of them individually appeared slim this year.
Exelon and ComEd, after discussions with the Clean Jobs Coalition and other stakeholders, have now rolled many of the provisions from the bills into a single legislative package.
If it passes, the Next Generation Energy Plan would affect virtually every aspect of the Illinois power industry. It calls for creation of a Zero Emission Standard that would provide make-whole payments to the Clinton and Quad City nuclear plants that “continue to lose well over $100 million,” according to Joe Dominguez, executive vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy at Exelon.
The plan would only compensate financially challenged plants after “a full and complete review of costs by the experts at the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Power Agency,” Dominguez said. He said the plan is modeled on one put forward in New York State by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help support ailing nuclear plants in the state.
In a question and answer session with journalists after the announcement, Dominguez said Exelon’s plan is not a subsidy, but “a recognition of a very important attribute that states care about,” referring to fact that nuclear plants do not emit carbon dioxide.
Subsidy or not, Exelon announced plans Friday morning to retire both nuclear plants if the supports fail again to win approval. The Clinton plant would cease operations June 1, 2017 and Quad Cities on June 1, 2018. The company had put off retirement decisions for both plants to participate in recent PJM auctions.
The bill also calls for a $140 million fund that would “jump start solar development” in Illinois, according to Fidel Marquez, senior vice president of governmental and external affairs at ComEd. Currently there are very few — about 500 — rooftop solar installations in ComEd’s service territory.
ComEd is also seeking to revise its rate structure, in part to adapt to the introduction of distributed generation resources, by cutting the fixed charge on customers’ bills by 50%. The revisions would also include the introduction of a mandatory “grid impact rate,” otherwise known as a demand charge, that Marquez says would make the utility’s rates more “equitable” across all customer classes.
The bill would also amend the Illinois law that bars ComEd from owning generation assets so that the utility could build six microgirds it has on the drawing board.
The bill also aims to fix the state’s renewable portfolio standard, which many parties have said has created a bottleneck that has slowed renewable development in the state because of its circuitous funding mechanism.
Exelon and ComEd say the legislation would reform that mechanism by moving the operational responsibility for RPS development funds to the state’s utilities. The provisions would be phased in to avoid damaging the interests of existing stakeholders, said Dominguez.
In a statement released after the introduction of the legislation, the Clean Jobs Coalition said it has engaged in “productive discussions” with ComEd and Exelon Generation.
“At this time, those discussions have not concluded, and we have not yet reached an agreement. We look forward to reviewing the details of this new proposal, and continuing discussions toward comprehensive energy legislation that achieves the goals of the Illinois Clean Jobs bill.”