SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (April 29, 2015) - The Illinois General Assembly must enact legislation to create a Low Carbon Portfolio Standard (LCPS) in the current session to ensure that the state avoids the negative impacts of closing nuclear energy plants on the economy, communities, jobs and the environment, a broad group of state and local leaders told the Illinois House Energy Committee at a subject matter hearing today.
A January 2015 State of Illinois report found that closing the three nuclear plants would cost the state $1.8 billion annually in lost economic activity, up to $500 million annually in higher energy costs, and as much as $1.1 billion annually due to increases in carbon and other pollutants - as well as 8,000 Illinois jobs.
"These are highly-skilled, good-paying, full-time, permanent jobs," said Terry McGoldrick, vice president and senior assistant business manager of IBEW Local 15. "They won't be easily replaced soon, if ever, if we allow these nuclear plants to close through inaction. But, as we stand here today, those plants and their jobs are at risk."
The LCPS proposed by House Bill 3293 has stronger consumer protections than any other program to promote low carbon energy in Illinois. It includes a 2.015 percent annual price cap that limits the impact to about $2 per month for the average Illinois household - significantly less than the increase customers would face if nuclear plants close early. The LCPS also provides a rebate to customers if wholesale power prices exceed a certain level.
"Illinois needs an all-of-the-above energy strategy like the LCPS," said Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr., D-Joliet. "It will retain and grow jobs, contribute to a robust economy, reduce harmful air emissions, grow renewable energy, and preserve our state's existing nuclear plants."
It is critical that the General Assembly act on the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard in the current legislative session, because the decision to close nuclear plants cannot simply be reversed. Illinois legislators cannot wait until the veto session in November to act, because Exelon must make decisions about potential plant closures earlier than that due to PJM requirements, Dominguez added.
"These plants aren't like cars, which can be shut off with the turn of a key," said Joseph Dominguez, Exelon's executive vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy. "Once a plant closure has been announced, we immediately begin to work toward shutting it down and cannot easily reverse course. Notifications will be made to employees and federal regulators, and the operating license will be relinquished."
Dominguez also addressed inaccurate claims that the recent capacity auction for MISO should prevent Clinton station from closing. However, this is not supported by the facts.
"Exelon bid Clinton power station's capacity into the auction as a price taker, meaning we would accept the auction clearing price," Dominguez said. "Because much of the plant's capacity was committed in retail and wholesale transactions before the auction, we realized about $13 million from the auction, not upwards of $50 million as some have speculated. This is not sufficient to make Clinton power station profitable and reinforces the need for urgent action by the legislature."
"The time has come for action," said Carolyn Peters, mayor of Clinton, Ill., host community to Clinton Power Station, one of three Illinois nuclear plants at risk of early closure. "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. I urge your strong support of the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard."
Learn more about Illinois' nuclear energy facilities at www.nuclearpowersillinois.com.