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Illinois House to decide fate of two carbon-free nuclear power plants

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Kent Knutson's picture
Energy Market Specialist Hitachi ABB Power Grids

Kent Knutson is a market specialist focusing on energy industry intelligence for Hitachi ABB Power Grids Enterprise Software Product Group.  He has more than 30 years of experience designing and...

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The fate of one-fifth of Illinois power production hangs in balance as the Illinois House considers an energy bill Thursday (September 9, 2021) that could save two nuclear power plants from early retirement. The bill passed through the Senate on September 1, 2021.

On August 4, 2021, Exelon Corporation, the largest owner and operator of nuclear power plants in the United States, announced they will shut down two Illinois nuclear power plants this fall unless there is federal or state support to keep the reactors operating. The plants include Byron (2,500 MW) and Dresden (1,800 MW) Generating Stations. The plants account for nearly one-fifth of all electricity produced in the state. They have been tremendous contributors to the state's power grid for decades.

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Kent Knutson's picture
Kent Knutson on Sep 10, 2021

The plan, which passed the House 83-33, authorizes nearly $700 million in ratepayer subsidies for Exelon during the next five years to keep Byron, Dresden, and Braidwood nuclear plants open.

WBEZ Chicago story: https://www.wbez.org/stories/sweeping-energy-package-passes-illinois-house/83a596c1-9ff2-4f29-a4f8-3f6459ee1719 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 13, 2021

$700 million in ratepayer subsidies

So that means this would be coming from the tax revenue base, not a rate increase, right? I imagine the former is actually more politically palatable because it's not showing up on people's utility bills each month as a reminder (even if the net cost to them is more or less the same in the end)-- do you think that's the case? 

Kent Knutson's picture
Kent Knutson on Sep 14, 2021

Matt, thanks for your comment.  these paragraphs were taken from a recent Chicago Tribune article . . . 

"Exactly how much the plan will cost power customers is an open question, with estimates for an increase to the average residential customers’ bill ranging from about $3 per month to as much as $15 per month. The ICC, which regulates utilities in the state, has not completed an analysis of the cost to power customers.

Democratic Sen. Mike Hastings of Frankfort, the measure’s Senate sponsor, pointed to an estimate from the Citizens Utility Board watchdog group that shows the average residential customer would see electric bills go up by about $3.50 per month."  

Money doesn't grow on trees . . .  thx again for your comment. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 14, 2021

Appreciate the follow up. General question to this-- do you think average bill increase in $ is the best metric? Would it be better to look at the % to better understand the impact to lower-income households with higher energy burden rather than lumping in the larger homes with greater incomes? 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Sep 15, 2021

Showing the subsidy on customer bills could be very mis-leading.  I suspect most people don't realize that their electric company is buying electricity on a commodity market, and that keeping those plants running increases supply and therefore puts downward pressure on wholesale prices.

It will be interesting to see what the analysis shows the bill effect to be.  I'm sure it will depend a lot on the future price of fossil gas, and to what extent there is public pressure to close the regional coal fired plants quickly.

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