By: Kari Lydersen
August 8, 2017
Illinois residents who live “downstate” — almost everywhere outside the Chicago metropolitan area — have long felt that their needs, views and very existence are overshadowed by the politics, economics and culture of the Windy City.
The utility Ameren Illinois, which serves downstate customers, is invoking that sentiment in defense of its request for lower energy efficiency targets under the sweeping energy law passed last year.
Ameren says it can’t realistically or cost-effectively meet the targets enshrined in the statute, and it is asking the Illinois Commerce Commission to lower its targets. Environmental and clean energy groups and the state Attorney General’s office say Ameren should be held to the targets in the law, and point out that ComEd, the utility serving Chicago and northern Illinois, is committed to substantially more ambitious targets.
The law, hashed out during months of negotiations in which energy efficiency targets were a contentious issue, sets separate energy savings mandates for ComEd and Ameren. There are various ways to quantify the difference between Ameren’s targets in the law and Ameren’s request. Critics say Ameren’s request will mean they save 27 percent less energy over four years than if they had complied with the targets in the law. Ameren did not provide their own number, but a spokesperson said the utility is proposing “aggressive” goals of 13 percent energy savings by 2025 and 16 percent by 2030.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Citizens Utility Board (CUB) filed joint testimony opposing Ameren’s request. The groups estimate that Ameren proposes spending 44 percent more on each kilowatt-hour of energy saved than ComEd proposes spending.