5/23/16 – Advocates: Ameren customers would see costs but not benefits of ComEd plan

southern illinoisan

Dan Petrella, The Southern Springfield Bureau
Updated May 21, 2016

SPRINGFIELD — If the Illinois General Assembly passes legislation that Exelon Corp. says is essential to the future of two financially struggling nuclear power plants, customers of downstate utility Ameren Illinois would help cover the cost but wouldn’t enjoy some of the benefits, environmental advocates say.

Exelon says it needs action on its “Next Generation Power Plan” before the Legislature’s scheduled May 31 adjournment in order to avoid shutting down the Clinton Power Station next summer. The bill is also vital to the future of the Quad Cities Generating Station in Cordova, the company says.

The bill would extend subsidies similar to those granted to the wind and solar energy industries to nuclear plants, a move the company says is warranted because nuclear power, like wind and solar, doesn’t generate carbon pollution. Exelon says its proposal would cost the average residential customer of its northern Illinois utility Commonwealth Edison 25 cents extra per month.

Ameren Illinois spokesman Tucker Kennedy wrote in an email that the company is still analyzing the effect the legislation would have on its customers’ energy bills.

Advocates say Ameren customers could pay more as a result but won’t reap the benefits of new energy efficiency commitments ComEd would make.

“The bottom line is customers downstate are left holding the bag with the cost, and they’re not getting the benefits or the savings,” said Nick Magrisso, Midwest states legislative director for the National Resources Defense Council.

The legislation would commit ComEd to expanding energy efficiency programs that would save customers an estimated $4 billion over the next decade.

As a result of negotiations with environmental groups and other members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, the plan includes requirements that ComEd cut its energy sales by 18.5 percent by 2025 and 23 percent by 2030. It would receive financial incentives for meeting the targets and face penalties for missing them.

Efforts to meet those goals would create thousands of jobs in the clean energy sector, advocates and the company say, but only in ComEd’s northern Illinois territory.

Jason Vogelbaugh is director of energy solutions for Alpha Controls & Services, which helps commercial, industrial and governmental customers make their facilities more energy efficient. He works out of the company’s Champaign office, which has worked on projects from Bloomington to Mount Vernon and elsewhere in between.

Becoming more energy efficient allows companies to invest more in their businesses and create new jobs, he said.

His company and its customers have benefitted from existing energy efficiency programs Ameren offers, and he wants to see that expand under the new legislation.

“Any proposal that leaves out central and Southern Illinois means we’re leaving big savings and jobs on the table,” Vogelbaugh said.

Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, commended ComEd and Exelon for their willingness to work with environmental groups and other interested parties in shaping their proposal.

“Those discussions have definitely borne some fruit,” he said, adding that the exclusion of Ameren from the new energy efficiency standards “is one of the very significant problems” remaining.

Kennedy, the Ameren spokesman, said the company favors “many of the provisions of the legislation, but we must consider the effect the entire package will have on our customers.”

“Ameren Illinois has been, and will continue to be, involved in talks with key stakeholders as this legislation moves forward,” he said.