Call for swift action on Illinois law

30 April 2015

State and community leaders in Illinois have called on lawmakers to enact a bill to promote low carbon energy as a matter of urgency if the state is to avoid costly economic impacts from nuclear power plant closures.

Clinton: one of Illinois' at-risk nuclear plants (Image: Exelon)

A broad group of supporters of the legislation - including energy company Exelon, trades union leaders, legislators and community leaders - made their comments to the Illinois House Energy Committee as it considers draft Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (LCPS) legislation. The bill has already been passed by the state's Senate but must also be passed by the House before going before the state governor for final approval.

The legislation aims to reduce carbon emissions, increase renewable energy and maintain a stable and secure electricity supply in the state. It allows all low carbon energy sources to compete on an equal footing and supports the continued operation of the state's 11 nuclear units which currently account for around a quarter of Illinois' generating capacity.

Last year, five of those units were identified as at risk of possible closure when operator Exelon said it would consider closing non-profitable nuclear plants. In January, a state report found that such closures would have serious consequences for the state's economy, including an estimated $1.8 billion per year in lost economic activity, up to $500 million in higher energy costs, as well as increases in carbon emissions and job losses. The LCPS has been proposed as a possible solution to avoid such impacts.

The LCPS's supporters note that the consumer protection built into the legislation would limit the cost of the promotion of low carbon energy to about $2 per month for the average household, which they say is significantly less than the increases customers would experience if the nuclear plants are to close early.

Exelon senior vice president Joseph Dominguez said that a timely decision on the legislation was essential as the company would have to make irreversible decisions on nuclear plant closures in the coming months. "These plants aren't like cars, which can be shut off with the turn of a key," he said. "Once a plant closure has been announced, we immediately begin to work toward shutting it down and cannot easily reverse course."

Referring to a recent capacity auction, he said that much of the Clinton plant's capacity had been committed in retail and wholesale transactions before it took place. "We realized about $13 million from the auction, not upwards of $50 million as some have speculated," he said.

Carolyn Peters, mayor of the community of Clinton, said the time had come for the state to take action. "The men and women of the General Assembly who are tasked with safeguarding our state's future must act now to prevent the catastrophic premature closure of our nuclear plants," she said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News