Illinois Lawmakers try again for overhaul of Illinois energy policy

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) — State Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Cristiana Castro, D-Elgin, have introduced a 900-page Illinois energy bill, the Clean Energy Jobs Act, House Bill 804, which has the potential to overhaul energy policy in Illinois. 

The bill focuses on carbon reduction, job creation and holding utilities accountable, Williams said.

Williams said legislation is urgently needed because of recent announcements that several coal-fired and nuclear power plants in Illinois are expected to close. 

“The marketplace is forcing the closure of coal and nuclear plants. Jobs are lost. The economic benefits to that community are lost. And there is no planning around the closure,” Williams said. 

The CEJA would provide clean energy jobs and support for the tax bases of communities where nuclear and fossil fuel-burning plants will shut down, Williams said.

The bill is designed to increase the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, by committing Illinois to 100% renewable energy by 2050. 

The 900-page bill includes a wide range of proposals that will be debated by stakeholders if the legislature decides to take it up in the upcoming spring session.

One proposal in the bill seeks to end “capacity payments,” which obligates ratepayers to pay $1.8 billion a year to utility companies to guarantee future production from coal-fired power plants. 

“That is a complete bailout of the fossil fuel industry,” Williams said.

Removing that ratepayer cost will reduce Illinois electric bills, a key goal of the legislation.

The bill proposes ending automatic rate hikes for utility delivery services by requiring performance-based rate setting.

Automatic rate hikes for delivery services have permitted utility companies, including ComEd and Ameren, to increase rates for consumers year after year without having to make the case to the Illinois Commerce Commission for why the increases were necessary.

Another proposal would enable the Illinois Power Agency to procure capacity from renewable energy sources by removing Illinois from the multi-state capacity auction conducted by the federally regulated PJM regional transmission organization, which relies on fossil fuels. 

In response to Commonwealth Edison’s recent admission in court to a bribery scheme, there is a restitution piece for consumers, Williams said. 

“Moving forward, the best practices that are required as part of the ComEd settlement, would be required of all utilities,” Williams said. 

Business groups, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, have previously opposed the CEJA.

“Proponents say CEJA is good for businesses. It isn’t,” Chamber president and CEO Todd Maisch wrote in an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune last May. “Illinois businesses are working through a financial crisis so they can open their doors and pay their employees, not figuring out how to pay for a rate increase at the worst conceivable time. CEJA is a bailout bill we can’t afford.”

By KEVIN BESSLER for the Illinois Radio Network

Region: Southern,Features,City: Carbondale,Region: Carbondale

via Feature – Newsradio WJPF

March 11, 2021 at 04:43PM

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