Future of sweeping energy legislation uncertain after another stall

Future of sweeping energy legislation uncertain after another stall

SPRINGFIELD, IL — The Illinois Senate President hopes to pass changes to the state’s energy policies for the next quarter of a century before any “deadlines are fatally tripped.”

From investing in wind and solar projects to subsidizing nuclear plants, the Illinois Senate passed a bill that would affect all areas of the state’s energy policy.

After a special session on revising the legislative maps Democrats passed, Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, Wednesday morning said they decided to move Senate Bill 18 as a deadline from Exelon to close some of its nuclear fleet looms. He thought it was Aug. 31.

“And that’s part of the reason we came back to Springfield when we did,” Harmon said. “The governor’s office has shared with us that they believe it’s more like the 12th and 13th of the month. I hope they’re right, but I don’t want to be testing the boundaries of that deadline.”

He said he’s glad they passed what they did, when they did, with enough time for the House to take it up and revise it if needed before “any of the deadlines are fatally tripped.”

Exelon hasn’t given a date for the closure of some of its nuclear fleet, but a shutdown checklist indicates there are about 18% of the necessary decommissioning tasks remaining for it’s Byron and Dresden facilities. Some remaining tasks include workforce reductions and the plants being taken offline permanently.

The legislation the Senate passed does a myriad of things, including propping up nuclear power with ratepayer subsidies and subsidizing renewable energy job training. With a nuclear plant in his district, state Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, supported the measure, but warned against further subsidizing renewable energy.

“You want lower costs to the ratepayers, even cut their current costs? Stop subsidizing weak and inefficient power,” Anderson said. “We could build more nuclear plants without subsidies.”

Anderson said the narrative has changed over the years from pushing for “clean” energy to “renewable” energy and said lawmakers will be back to the same issue in two to four years if they continue to make an uneven playing field for power providers.

Among other changes, the measure would also force the closure of private coal fired power plants by 2030 and public coal plants by 2045.

Alyssa Harre, with Prairie State in southern Illinois, said that would impact the not-for-profit utility’s 2.5 million ratepayers.

“They did take out bonds to essentially mortgage and build this facility and regardless if the plant is operating or not, those payments will still need to be made,” Harre said.

City Water Light and Power in Springfield wouldn’t have extended bonds to pay off past 2045. But, CWLP’s Doug Brown worried about the impacts of greenhouse gas caps getting progressively more strict.

“That basically limits the operation of the utility in trying to really provide for a reliable grid as well as keeping our costs controlled for our customers,” Brown said.

The measure has yet to be sent to the House, where spokesperson for House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said Welch relying on the advice and guidance from his leadership team as conversations continue.

“The Speaker has been very clear that before an energy proposal is called in the House there must be a consensus among the Democratic caucus and stakeholders, as well as include strong, meaningful ethics provisions,” the spokesperson said.

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