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Illinois’ Energy at a Crossroads

Should Illinois bail out nuclear plants losing money due to low natural gas prices at the expense of  renewable energy projects?

View this presentation from Tuesday, October 25 by Dave Kraft of the Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) as he takes a hard look at what is being asked of Illinois consumers in the upcoming legislation at this Sustainable Springfield event.


Illinois’ Energy at a Crossroads

For the fourth year in a row, Exelon/ComEd have thwarted fixing the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, and instead have put forth legislation for a $1.6 billion nuclear bailout, what would amount to the end of net metering, monopoly control of community solar, and higher rates through a “demand charge” rate structure – using the premise of “jumpstarting” renewables. Nuclear energy is truly a danger in its massive radioactive waste, operation expense and vulnerability to radiation leaks as demonstrated most recently at Fukushima, Japan. Illinois sits on the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a major seismic zone and a prolific source of intraplate earthquakes in the southern and midwestern United States,

The bill calls for effectively ending net metering as it currently exists, and basing consumer bills more heavily on a “demand charge” determined by single high spikes in energy use. New jobs and economic activity do return when the long process begins in decommissioning the plants; and new energy systems are implemented to replace the retired nuclear plants.

Most importantly, the new proposal puts up serious impediments to rooftop solar development, saddles customers with unfair costs to prop up Exelon nuclear plants and fails to adequately address problems with Illinois’ “broken” Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

In deregulated states like Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, nuclear generators have found it increasingly difficult to sell their power at a profit on open markets, because of competition primarily from gas but also from wind.

A diverse group of business and clean energy interests are campaigning against an Exelon “bailout,” as critics call it, pegged at $580 million, saying citizens have already subsidized the company more than enough.

If nuclear energy were allowed to fulfill state clean energy goals, advocates fear the nuclear plants would overwhelm the program and leave little or no incentive for new renewable energy.

The bill includes supports for the two Exelon nuclear plants that the company has maintained are in danger of closing if left to market forces. It calls for an independent review of the plants’ financial prospects, and if “available market revenues are insufficient, the plants will be eligible for compensation for their zero emissions attributes,” as described by Joe Dominguez, Executive Vice President of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy for Exelon.

In Ohio, FirstEnergy successfully lobbied to suspend the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Now FirstEnergy is asking that ratepayers be forced to pay a guaranteed rate for energy from the troubled Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo, under a proposal pending before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

A residential demand charge takes away the ability for customers to manage and control their energy bills.

In an article posted by National Geographic, “Fukushima in New York?” A new documentary explores the fight around Indian Point Energy Center in the wake of Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster.

“One of the things that struck me the most (at Fukushima) was seeing mounds and mounds of radioactive dirt, layers and layers of dirt, scraped off the ground all around the plant and then piled up and covered up. And then there are tanks and tanks full of radioactive water that they’re sucking out, and they don’t have anywhere to put it.” —Ivy Meeropol

And “I had no idea that nuclear power plants use so much water. [At] Fukushima they were using ocean water, so that’s why all that radiation was spilling into the Pacific. So when it comes to Indian Point, I was shocked out of my mind when I learned that they suck in 1.2 billion gallons of water a day.”

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