Pritzker unveils energy plan amid session’s final stretch

Pritzker unveils energy plan amid session’s final stretch

By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]inois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker’s office unveiled a 900-page energy overhaul bill Wednesday, accelerating a yearslong negotiating process which advocates hope will end in a comprehensive clean energy platform as the session nears its final month.

The stated goal of the bill is to drive Illinois to 100 percent “clean” energy by 2050. That, Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell said in an interview Wednesday, would include nuclear power as a major contributor. Another goal is to bring Illinois to 40 percent of its utility scale energy being produced by renewables, such as wind and solar, by 2030. Right now, that number is around 8 percent.

The bill contains some of the provisions put forth in other legislation, such as raising the rate cap on ratepayer bills for renewable projects from about 2 percent to 3.75 percent; ending formulaic rate increases for utilities immediately; and prohibiting natural gas companies from assessing a certain surcharge on bills starting in January 2022.

It also requires an annual outside audit of Exelon Corporation – the parent company of scandal-ridden Commonwealth Edison – while providing about $70 million in subsidies each year for the next five years to two struggling nuclear plants owned by the company, one in Byron and one in Dresden. A 2016 state law has already provided two other nuclear plants owned by the company with state subsidies.

ComEd has been in the headlines since last year after entering a deferred prosecution agreement with the federal government last July in which the company admitted to a yearslong bribery scheme through which they sought to “influence and reward” then-Speaker of the House Michael Madigan with jobs for his confidants in exchange for favorable action on legislation. Madigan has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.

With other added ethics and accountability measures such as a requirement that the Illinois Commerce Commission “initiate an investigation as to whether ComEd used ratepayer funds in connection with” conduct outlined in that court document, the governor’s office is seeking to strike a balance between accountability and ensuring Exelon’s nuclear fleet remains one of the state’s driving forces in keeping the lights on and reducing carbon emissions.

“We believe that the best way to save our nuclear fleet is going to be at the lowest possible cost to the ratepayer. And what was recommended by our independent audit is some limited short-term help for the next five years,” Mitchell said. “And if you combine that with a carbon price, you actually then can reduce the amount of that help, and if you keep these folks viable for the next five years, our audit – again using all of (Exelon’s) assumptions – would basically say you’re keeping them alive for the next 10 years.”

Mitchell was referring to an $8 per ton price on carbon emissions for fossil fuel providers, such as coal-fired power plants and natural gas plants, that is included in the bill. That fee would escalate each year by 3 percent.

The audit he mentioned was commissioned by the governor’s office through Synapse Energy Economics Inc., costing the state $208,000. It was based on cost numbers provided by Exelon that have not been made public due to a nondisclosure agreement.

Even state lawmakers have not seen unredacted copies of the audit as of Wednesday, which was a point of concern for the state senator who chairs a key energy committee deeply involved in energy negotiations.

Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, who is a supporter of a union-backed bill aimed at keeping the nuclear plants viable, said any decision on subsidizing Exelon should not be made until the company and the governor’s office agree to release the unredacted audit.

According to Hastings, without those numbers, it’s unclear what level of subsidy the nuclear plants will need, and whether Exelon will come back to the General Assembly in the future for additional subsidies if those in the governor’s plan prove insufficient.

Still, Mitchell said the $70 million annual subsidy is the best option “that doesn’t fleece the ratepayer, that only gives Exelon exactly what it is they need and preserves the kind of resources we need to invest in things like putting 1 million new electric vehicles on the road by 2030, doubling our investment in renewable energy.”

The bill aims to accomplish that electric vehicle goal by allocating $70 million from the Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure plan to speed the production of charging stations. The state would offer rebates to companies and organizations up to 90 percent for the cost of the implementing charging stations, up to $4,000 or $5,000, depending on the charger.

The bill does not include reforms to the energy capacity market – a measure that was a staple of previous energy reform bills that have stagnated in the General Assembly and was once a top priority of Exelon.

Capacity payments are funded by ratepayers, essentially paying electricity generators to stay open for a number of years in order to ensure the grid can meet peak capacity needs. Some bill language for other proposals would have taken capacity procurement processes out of the hands of the federally regulated PJM Interconnection regional transmission organization and put it in the hands of the state.

Advocates have said that will allow Illinois to target capacity payments to clean and renewable energy sources.

But changes at the White House and at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have alleviated some of the pressure that such a proposal be included in Illinois’ reforms, and the governor’s office said their proposal would more efficiently stabilize the nuclear fleet and emphasize the importance of carbon reduction.

The carbon price is key to that effort, Mitchell said, and revenues derived from it are expected to reach between $400 million and $500 million annually.

About 40 percent of that would go to equity measures written into the bill, Mitchell said, while some of it would go to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for its operations and some would go to bolstering the Illinois Commerce Commission on some of its new regulatory duties.

“There’s also money that would go toward making sure that displaced workers and communities that are affected by plant closures have the resources they need,” Mitchell said. “That (the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) can do grants to provide additional economic development opportunity in those areas so that workers get the kind of job training they need to go into the jobs of the future. So it would be split up between priorities on both the operations and investments.”

Some of the money would also go toward “budget stabilization,” meaning it would aid the state’s ailing General Revenue Fund, which is lawmakers’ main discretionary spending account.

The governor’s bill essentially jumpstarts the energy negotiation process that has been ongoing since several overhaul proposals sputtered in his first year. Other proposals in the General Assembly include the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a coal-to-solar proposal and a Path to 100 Act. There’s also the labor-backed Climate Union Jobs Act, among others. The governor’s proposal contains some priorities of many or all of them.

Hastings, who for months has been heavily involved in Senate energy working groups as chair of the chamber’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee, said in a phone call Wednesday he saw some good points and some points of concern in the governor’s plan.

The effect of the carbon price must be studied, Hastings said, to determine whether it would cause some fossil fuel plants to close too early, jeopardizing the state’s available power.

He also said he was encouraged that the governor’s office included a measure making the Citizens Utility Board subject to Freedom of Information Act requests and prohibiting it from accepting funds from a foundation tied to a public utility.

But Hastings said more is needed in terms of enabling battery storage for renewable energy – proposals he has touted as sponsor of a coal-to-solar measure backed by Vistra Energy.

“My view on battery storage is that it is probably one of the most key components of solar in general across the state of Illinois and across the country,” Hastings said. “And I say that because, you know, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. However, when the sun does shine, we want to make sure that we store that energy so we can disperse it when we need it. That’s part of sustainable renewable energy that some folks overlook.”

The governor’s measure calls for the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Power Agency to “initiate a proceeding to examine specific programs, mechanisms, and policies that could support the deployment of energy storage systems,” according to a fact sheet from the governor’s office.

Mitchell said the governor’s office chose that path to avoid “being so prescriptive that the ICC and the IPA can’t keep up with changing technology.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Leave a Comment





Local News

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi (from left), Senior Data Scientist William Ridgeway, Director of Data Science Daniel Snow, Director of Data Analytics Nicole Jardine, Chief Data Officer Samantha Simpson and IAAO President L. Wade Patterson. --Supplied photo

Assessor’s Office wins national awards

‘Testament to successful efforts.’ Kaegi says From staff reports The Cook County Assessor’s Office has received awards from two national organizations for creating a new residential model that contributes to fairly and accurately assessing homes in Cook County. The International Association of Assessing Officers gave the Assessor’s Office its Distinguished Research and Development Award, and The Center…

CRRNH_FPDCCtroutstockingspring_100522

Forest Preserves stocking thousands of trout

From staff reports The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s 2022 fall inland trout fishing season will open at sunrise on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Axehead Lake in Park Ridge, Belleau Lake in Des Plaines, Busse Reservoir-North Pool in Elk Grove Village, Sag Quarry-East in Lemont, Horsetail Lake in Palos Park and Green Lake in Calumet…

Glendora Banquets closed last month in Chicago Ridge. (Supplied photo)

Glendora Banquet Hall closes as owners retire

By Bob Bong The Glendora Banquet Hall closed August 17 in Chicago Ridge after longtime owners Stanley and Mary Bielanski decided to retire. “They want to enjoy life,” said their son, Stan Jr., explaining why the couple decided to close the restaurant at 10225 S. Harlem Ave. after operating it for 31 years. He and…

cook county board logo

Cook County Board unanimously repeals county wheel tax

Cook County commissioners last week unanimously voted to eliminate the so-called wheel tax for residents in unincorporated areas. The vote on September 22 will permanently end the county’s vehicle registration fines and fees. “Anytime we have an opportunity to cut or eliminate taxes it’s always the right thing to do for Cook County taxpayers,” said…

dvn summit NNO9 2022

Summit Police Department launches new crime website

By Carol McGowan The Summit Police Department has launched a digital crime fighting tool. The department is the second in Illinois to join the CrimeWatch Network. It’s a new website that offers direct access to crime and public safety-related information. Interim Police Chief Mel Ortiz announced the launch of the site, saying it gives people…

biz butera frankfort

Comings & Goings: Butera closing Frankfort supermarket

By Bob Bong Elgin-based Butera Finer Foods, which reacquired its former supermarket at 20825 S. LaGrange Road in Frankfort in 2018, announced the store would be closing sometime in October. The family-owned Butera chain took over the former Walt’s Food Center on Nov. 11, 2018, and christened the store a Butera Fruit Market. Walt’s had…

bridgeview police logo - Copy

Soccer match triggers call for help in Bridgeview

By Bob Bong A soccer match on one of the practice fields at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview got heated Sunday evening, which led to mutual aid calls by the Bridgeview police. “Two teams got into it,” said Bridgeview Police Chief Ricardo Mancha. “Then some of their fans got into it.” To keep it from getting…

Rich Przybycien, who organized the sixth annual Veterans Thank You Luncheon last Saturday at St. Paul Lutheran Church Friendship Hall in Oak Lawn, plays “Taps” during a solemn moment at the event. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Church luncheon thanks and salutes U.S. veterans

By Joe Boyle Veterans from all walks of life can use some assistance in receiving the benefits they deserve. Carlo Melone, senior national service officer for the Disabled American Veterans, said that servicemen and women are entitled to certain benefits that were not available to them in the recent past. Melone was the guest speaker at the…

Darren Bailey, who is running for governor, speaks to a crowd in McCook on Sept. 22. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Bailey vows to repeal SAFE-T Act during stop in McCook

By Jeff Vorva Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey had several hundred “friends” eating out of the palm of his hand in McCook on Sept. 22. Bailey used the term “friends” countless times during his 15-minute speech at a rally in a huge parking lot across from the McCook Athletic and Exposition building, and they…

ace

ACE starting up Yes I Can after-school program for Summit students

The Argo Coalition for Education’s Yes I Can after-school program is about to get underway for the 2022-2023 school year. The program begins October 4 and will meet every Tuesday from 3-5 p.m. at the Shiloh Baptist Church Education Building, 7661 W. 63rd Place, Summit. This program, for first-grade through eighth-grade, is designed to help…

Neighbors

DVN JCs Restoration House Ad
Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi (from left), Senior Data Scientist William Ridgeway, Director of Data Science Daniel Snow, Director of Data Analytics Nicole Jardine, Chief Data Officer Samantha Simpson and IAAO President L. Wade Patterson. --Supplied photo

Assessor’s Office wins national awards

‘Testament to successful efforts.’ Kaegi says From staff reports The Cook County Assessor’s Office has received awards from two national organizations for creating a new residential model that contributes to fairly and accurately assessing homes in Cook County. The International Association of Assessing Officers gave the Assessor’s Office its Distinguished Research and Development Award, and The Center…

CRRNH_FPDCCtroutstockingspring_100522

Forest Preserves stocking thousands of trout

From staff reports The Forest Preserves of Cook County’s 2022 fall inland trout fishing season will open at sunrise on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Axehead Lake in Park Ridge, Belleau Lake in Des Plaines, Busse Reservoir-North Pool in Elk Grove Village, Sag Quarry-East in Lemont, Horsetail Lake in Palos Park and Green Lake in Calumet…

Glendora Banquets closed last month in Chicago Ridge. (Supplied photo)

Glendora Banquet Hall closes as owners retire

By Bob Bong The Glendora Banquet Hall closed August 17 in Chicago Ridge after longtime owners Stanley and Mary Bielanski decided to retire. “They want to enjoy life,” said their son, Stan Jr., explaining why the couple decided to close the restaurant at 10225 S. Harlem Ave. after operating it for 31 years. He and…

cook county board logo

Cook County Board unanimously repeals county wheel tax

Cook County commissioners last week unanimously voted to eliminate the so-called wheel tax for residents in unincorporated areas. The vote on September 22 will permanently end the county’s vehicle registration fines and fees. “Anytime we have an opportunity to cut or eliminate taxes it’s always the right thing to do for Cook County taxpayers,” said…

dvn summit NNO9 2022

Summit Police Department launches new crime website

By Carol McGowan The Summit Police Department has launched a digital crime fighting tool. The department is the second in Illinois to join the CrimeWatch Network. It’s a new website that offers direct access to crime and public safety-related information. Interim Police Chief Mel Ortiz announced the launch of the site, saying it gives people…

biz butera frankfort

Comings & Goings: Butera closing Frankfort supermarket

By Bob Bong Elgin-based Butera Finer Foods, which reacquired its former supermarket at 20825 S. LaGrange Road in Frankfort in 2018, announced the store would be closing sometime in October. The family-owned Butera chain took over the former Walt’s Food Center on Nov. 11, 2018, and christened the store a Butera Fruit Market. Walt’s had…

bridgeview police logo - Copy

Soccer match triggers call for help in Bridgeview

By Bob Bong A soccer match on one of the practice fields at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview got heated Sunday evening, which led to mutual aid calls by the Bridgeview police. “Two teams got into it,” said Bridgeview Police Chief Ricardo Mancha. “Then some of their fans got into it.” To keep it from getting…

Rich Przybycien, who organized the sixth annual Veterans Thank You Luncheon last Saturday at St. Paul Lutheran Church Friendship Hall in Oak Lawn, plays “Taps” during a solemn moment at the event. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Church luncheon thanks and salutes U.S. veterans

By Joe Boyle Veterans from all walks of life can use some assistance in receiving the benefits they deserve. Carlo Melone, senior national service officer for the Disabled American Veterans, said that servicemen and women are entitled to certain benefits that were not available to them in the recent past. Melone was the guest speaker at the…

Darren Bailey, who is running for governor, speaks to a crowd in McCook on Sept. 22. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Bailey vows to repeal SAFE-T Act during stop in McCook

By Jeff Vorva Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey had several hundred “friends” eating out of the palm of his hand in McCook on Sept. 22. Bailey used the term “friends” countless times during his 15-minute speech at a rally in a huge parking lot across from the McCook Athletic and Exposition building, and they…

ace

ACE starting up Yes I Can after-school program for Summit students

The Argo Coalition for Education’s Yes I Can after-school program is about to get underway for the 2022-2023 school year. The program begins October 4 and will meet every Tuesday from 3-5 p.m. at the Shiloh Baptist Church Education Building, 7661 W. 63rd Place, Summit. This program, for first-grade through eighth-grade, is designed to help…

DVN Jack Pats Butcher Shop House Ad
CRR NH Trianos Pizza House Ad