illinois energy plan

How Much Could Illinois' Energy Reform Plan Raise Utility Bills?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he looks forward to signing the measure into law as soon as possible

The Illinois Senate on Monday approved a wide-ranging energy plan to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050 despite the uncertainty of how much the legislation could cost residents.

Two nuclear plants would be saved from closure and carbon-emitting coal plants closed during the next quarter-century as part of the clean-energy package. The bill heads to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has pushed for a carbon-free Illinois by 2045.

A number of Republicans have questioned the rise of utility rates under the plan, saying it could cost ratepayers as much as $15 or more monthly. 

"While clean power is essential for our state, both now and in the future, we cannot ignore the immediate effect on electricity rates this legislation will have," Illinois Rep. Dan Ugaste said in a statement earlier this month.

Proponents of the legislation say the average residential increase will amount to $3.50 a month.

Before the bill's passage in the Senate, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce released a statement Monday calling the proposal flawed and one that will "dramatically increase costs and call reliability into question."

There are multiple hidden costs, said Rep. Charles Meier, an Okawville Republican, who represents the area including Prairie State Generating Co. in Marissa.

The coal plant and a separate plant, City Water, Light & Power in Springfield, must cut 45% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 and close permanently by 2045.

Meier previously said Prairie State’s municipal and co-op owners have taken steps to boost its clean energy production to 12%, compared with 7% statewide. He said the solar power grid necessary to replace Prairie State’s generation capacity alone would eat up 123,000 acres of “prime farmland.”

“We’re guessing,” Rep. Keith Wheeler of Oswego previously said. "We’re putting a huge goal on the board and if we don’t guess right, we’ll be buying fossil-based power from neighboring states.”

The package sets ethics standards for utilities to meet, given the criticism over what’s derided as a $700 million bailout for Exelon, whose subsidiary, utility giant ComEd, has acknowledged to federal prosecutors that it engaged in a decadelong bribery scheme in Springfield and is cooperating in an ongoing investigation that has implicated former House Speaker Michael Madigan and led to indictments of Madigan’s closest confidante and a former ComEd CEO, among others.

Illinois Sen. Mike Simmons, of Chicago, said while he's happy that Illinois is on a path to becoming free of fossil fuels, he voted "present" due to Exelon rate hikes and additional fees on residents.

"...SB 2408 implements a rate hike on lower-income folks and local businesses that are trying to weather an unrelenting pandemic," he said in a statement, in part. "I also have concerns with giving more money to Exelon right now when the public’s trust has been abused systemically in recent years by Commonwealth Edison."

Pritzker in a statement hailed the Senate's passage, saying Illinois is "charting a new future that works to mitigate the impacts of climate change."

"I look forward to signing this historic measure into law as soon as possible, because our planet and the people of Illinois ought not wait any longer," he said.

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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