Illinois could shut down all coal-fired power plants by 2035 under a proposal put to a vote this week
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – State lawmakers are set to pass what advocates are calling the country’s most aggressive climate bill.
Energy experts say the Pritzker administration’s proposal would shut down all coal-fired power plants in the state by 2035. The plan would also phase out natural gas by 2045. They hope it can open a new one. way to green energy in Illinois.
Senators return to Springfield to debate the clean energy plan on Tuesday. The House plans to vote on the measure on Wednesday. Although lawmakers have not yet tabled the text of the bill.
Lawmakers could provide $ 700 million over five years for the Exelon nuclear power plants in Byron, Morris and Braidwood. The Illinois Environmental Council says the plan can support workers at these factories and ensure reliable, carbon-free electricity without unnecessary bailouts. IEC executive director Jennifer Walling explained that Exelon would receive $ 5 billion less than the utility was hoping for.
“Instead of $ 560 million a year over 10 years, we’ve provided them with an amount that will keep the factories open, make them competitive, but not contribute to the excess profits of this business,” Walling said.
Exelon is the parent company of Commonwealth Edison. Last summer, the Chicago Public Service was caught up in a corruption scandal in Springfield involving former President Mike Madigan.
Walling says communities with Exelon factories have many opportunities to transition to a renewable economy.
“Rockford can enter the renewable energy market through solar power, through energy efficiency, through long-term equity and economic gains,” Walling said.
In search of energy workers
The plan also creates a bill of rights for factory workers displaced during closures. Advocates say it could help them find new opportunities in the energy sector. This plan could require factory owners to give employees two years’ notice before their factory closes.
However, upstate lawmakers and coal-fired workers say their factories are not expected to close by 2035. They argue the facilities are relatively new and already clean compared to others across the country. country.
The coal-fired plants in Springfield and Marissa employ several thousand people and support an additional 1,000 union members. Union advocates argue there will be devastating consequences if this legislation is passed and shut down facilities before the end of their useful deadlines.
“Energy policy is complex,” noted Aaron Gurnsey, president of the Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council. “All we’re asking for is more time to transition to new sources of energy in a responsible way that protects workers and taxpayers. “
Obtain electricity from other states or buy renewables
Fifty-two lawmakers signed a letter to Governor JB Pritzker and key legislative leaders expressing their opposition to the early shutdown of the two municipal power plants. Rep. Mike Murphy (R-Springfield) said Illinois will need to get electricity from other states in order to compensate for closed factories.
“Probably it will come from coal from Indiana – coal from Indiana, Missouri, or Kentucky. So, are we really improving the environment if we replace coal with coal, ”Murphy asked. “What we’re going to do is lose jobs in Illinois.”
However, Walling says municipal utilities need to look to the future instead of making decisions that tie them to the past. She believes now is the best time for these communities to invest in renewable resources.
“It’s a lot cheaper in a lot of situations than coal or natural gas,” Walling explained. “You have the state of Iowa at almost a third of the wind power at this point. These technologies evolve and evolve.
More than 50 lawmakers say they won’t vote for a plan that allows coal-fired power plants to stay open. The proposal will need a 3/5 majority in both chambers to pass as lawmakers return after the May 31 deadline.
Business groups warn of rate hikes
A large group of business organizations sent a letter to executives on Monday urging them to rethink the plan. More than 20 business leaders say the proposal could be the biggest rate hike for Illinois customers and businesses in history.
“This legislation includes not only higher rates for low-income families in all parts of this state, but also for all businesses and organizations, large and small. Lobbyists in the environmental community and many others seem to have had unrestricted access to drafting a bill that imposes huge costs on others, ”wrote the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, the Retail Merchants Association and the Municipal League, among others.
Business groups estimate that the first installment of the price increase for businesses and local governments could amount to $ 700 million per year. They also noted that customers could pay an additional $ 215 million for renewable energy programs without their contribution.
Still, Walling believes customers will only see a small impact on pricing. She says a lot of these changes are line changes, so the real impact will come on the bill. Walling explained that the state will be working on several options to lower bills for consumers and businesses.
“We’re going to see new energy efficiency opportunities for customers to lower their bills,” Walling said. “Even if you don’t use energy efficiency, your bills go down because you don’t need to build as much transmission and infrastructure. We think this is something that is going to be balanced and will give us the ability to keep the rates and the bills in Illinois very low. “