5/23/16 – Central Illinois Ameren customers could pay bill for northern Illinois benefits, say environmental groups

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By Steve Tarter
Posted May 20, 2016 at 6:40 PM

PEORIA — Rate payers in the Ameren service territory in central and southern Illinois could be left in the dark if the General Assembly passes a bill offering energy efficiency incentives — but only to customers in ComEd’s northern Illinois service area.

The bill could raise utility rates statewide but only provide benefits to residents in northern Illinois, several environmental groups said Friday.

Senate Bill 1585, referred to as the ComEd-Exelon bill, would expand energy efficiency programs while boosting solar and nuclear energy, declaring customers would save $4 billion over the next 10 years.

But those benefits would be limited to ComEd’s northern Illinois service area, excluding Ameren’s downstate customers from the energy efficiency plan, said Nick Magrisso of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The bill includes support for nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities that the Exelon utility had threatened to close unless guaranteed $300 million for future operations.

Paul Adams, a spokesman for Exelon, said the new legislation would benefit all residents of the state.

“Among other benefits, it will create thousands of clean energy jobs by jump-starting solar energy development with rebates and more than $140 million per year in new funding,” he said.

“It will strengthen the economy by preserving $1.2 billion in economic activity and 4,200 jobs associated with Clinton and Quad Cities and will avoid an increase in carbon emissions that would result in $10 billion in economic damages over 10 years.”

A state report found that allowing the two nuclear plants to close could raise wholesale electricity prices in the region by $439 million to $645 million, he said.

The bill’s details still are being finalized, said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Sierra Club, noting estimates on a possible rate increase were estimated at “25 to 30 cents a month (per home).”

Tucker Kennedy, Ameren’s director of communications, said the utility “has been talking to the Clean Jobs Coalition about energy efficiency goals for outside the Chicago area for months.”

“Ameren Illinois is still considering customer cost impacts for the entire bill, including the zero emissions charge. We support many of the provisions of the legislation, but we must consider the effect the entire package will have on our customers. Ameren Illinois will continue to be involved with talks as this legislation moves forward,” said Kennedy.

Dave Kolata, executive director of the Chicago-based Citizens Utility Board, liked the bill’s energy efficiency incentives. “Our take is that the (ComEd) proposal is significantly better than past proposals, but it still needs work. If it’s going to make sense for consumers, Ameren needs to be a part of it.”