Exelon urges Illinois to adopt low carbon portfolio standard to stop closure of 3 power plants

Exelon Corp. is encouraging the Illinois General Assembly to enact House Bill 3293 to create a low carbon portfolio standard in its current session to avoid the negative impact of closing nuclear power plants in Rock Island, Clinton, and Ogle County, Illinois.

“This legislation corrects market flaws that advantage certain forms of low carbon energy providers, such as wind and solar enjoy that Exelon doesn’t,” said Paul Elsberg, an Exelon spokesperson.

Enacting the legislation, Elsberg says, levels the playing field and allows all low carbon and no carbon suppliers compete on equal footing.

A January 2015 State of Illinois report found that closing the three nuclear plants would cost the state $1.8 billion annually in lost economic activity, up to $500 million annually in higher energy costs, and as much as $1.1 billion annually due to increases in carbon and other pollutants, as well as 8,000 Illinois jobs.

Elsberg said the urgency comes from Exelon needing time to make critical decisions regarding the continuing operation of its plants. If the legislation is not enacted then Exelon needs time to act since it takes several months to close a nuclear power plant.

“Once we’ve closed a plant it’s extremely difficult if not impossible to restart it due to operations and economic factors,” he said. “We will have to make decisions about plant closures, we can’t afford to continue to lose money,” he added. “If the legislation passes we’re prepared to enter into agreements to keep the plants running.”

The legislation has stronger consumer protections than any other program to promote low carbon energy in Illinois. It includes a 2 percent annual price cap that limits the impact to about $2 per month for the average Illinois household, significantly less than the increase customers would face if nuclear plants close early, Elsberg said.

The legislation also provides a rebate to customers if wholesale power prices exceed a certain level.
Elsberg said the nuclear power industry is struggling in Illinois due to a combination of factors.

“We have low natural gas prices, fracking has created a glut of natural gas that has driven down prices, and we’ve seen a slow growth in demand,” he said.

Elsberg is optimistic about the bill’s chances.

In late March the Illinois Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee passed the bill unanimously.

“We know the bill has broad and bipartisan support in both chambers,” he said. “That said, we’re urging the general assembly in this session.”