Guest commentary | Illinois’ giant energy bill is an assortment of special interests | Guest comment


The Illinois Senate adjourned this week without calling for a vote on the state’s controversial energy proposal, delaying a massive transformation of the state’s energy sector.

The energy package includes a requirement for the state to go fully green by 2050, sets shutdown dates for coal and natural gas power plants, gives hundreds of millions of subsidies to Exelon nuclear power plants, adds new financing for energy construction and infrastructure projects, and more.

The delay is good news for the general public and watch groups, who have no idea what is really in the non-transparent 800-plus-page bill that has yet to be tabled. . Its financial impact is not fully known, although there is no doubt that every special interest group knows exactly what it is getting out of it.

The best way forward would be for lawmakers to pause negotiations and listen to voices other than those of Illinois special interest groups – especially, those who will bear the brunt of any deal: residents and businesses. .

After all, anyone is unlikely to know the true cost of the subsidies provided for in the bill. Or the real costs to Exelon of properly maintaining Illinois nuclear facilities. Or how the state will be able to go from its current 8% of clean energy production to 40% in just nine years. Or 100% clean energy in 29 years.

Will Illinois be forced to buy energy from neighboring states at exorbitant costs because it will not be able to produce enough in the future? Will the state experience power cuts? What is the real and net impact on jobs of all the changes?

Demanding optics

We must not neglect the perspective of the bill, especially when it comes to ethics. The last major energy deal in 2016 that subsidized Exelon’s nuclear power plants has since been marred by confessions of corruption and bribery.

The champions of a deal, including Gov. JB Pritzker, are stuck balancing competing demands from unions, environmentalists, the fairness movement and big business, while sparking huge change in the energy sector in the world. Illinois and the general public.

These competing interests are the reason the package stalled. Environmentalists want quick shutdowns of the state’s coal and natural gas plants. The unions want these factories to stay open as long as possible to preserve thousands of union jobs. This impasse has not yet been resolved.

And there are even more issues involved.

Exelon wants grants to run its Illinois nuclear power plants. Climate activists want their own subsidies for renewable energy sources, electric cars and more. Not to mention the struggle over who controls the money that goes to new programs, commissions, task forces and infrastructure projects.

Perhaps what best defines what this bill is and what it is not are the comments of State Representative Ann Williams, D-Chicago: “We have to pass a bill. climate law, not a utility bill. … Without climate and fairness, we don’t have an agreement.

Delay without surprise

The failure of the Senate to adopt the energy package after months of negotiations is not so surprising.

On the one hand, the plan is under scrutiny for the previous connections between the staff of former House Speaker Mike Madigan and Commonwealth Edison – no one wants to be seen as going too far to help a business. massive and profitable that has already benefited from the previous transplant (ComEd agreed to pay a $ 200 million fine to resolve an investigation into its corruption schemes).

The new deal requires Exelon, the parent company of ComEd, to secure nearly $ 700 million in taxpayer support for three of its nuclear power plants (two of which it threatens to shut down this year if no help is provided) .

Second, the package is a highly political and lucrative deal among the left, with interest groups fighting over the details. Governor JB Pritzker summed up the competition: “It wasn’t two interested parties – unions and environmentalists – it wasn’t that. It was an eight-party negotiation [and] very difficult to bring people together.

Who wants what

The list of items below has been compiled from a note issued by the governor detailing his version of the energy proposal.

  • The green lobby supports the bill as it phase out coal by 2035 and natural gas by 2045. It calls for 40% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050. ( Never mind that renewables make up less than 10% of all production today and there is no clear plan on how to make the transition to 100%. To compound the problem, much of the capacity Illinois nuclear power – more than 50% of the state’s power output – will decline over the next several decades.)

The green lobby is also pushing for the bill as it specifically calls for the gradual implementation

on two large coal-fired power plants, Prairie State in Marissa and City Water, Light and Power in Springfield, by 2035.

  • Labor groups, on the other hand, want coal-fired power to stay online until 2045 to protect jobs.
  • The governor’s compromise with them allows it, as long as the carbon capture technology can meet the demand of
  • emissions.

Labor groups want the bill because it demands that much of the conversion to green be paid with current wages (union wages) for new infrastructure projects.

Exelon is backing the deal because it provides $ 694 million in higher subsidies to keep three of the company’s nuclear plants in Illinois afloat. The previous energy deal in 2016 under Madigan bailed out two other Exelon nuclear facilities.

Labor groups also want to bail out Illinois nuclear power plants because it will mean thousands of jobs saved.

Fairness advocates endorse the bill because of important equity-focused provisions on jobs and energy investments.

Green energy suppliers and manufacturers are supporting the bill because they receive taxpayer subsidies totaling $ 215 million.

The auto industry supports the bill because it includes a grant of up to $ 4,000 for the purchase of electric vehicles.

  • Big government supporters support this bill because it provides for a future collection of new programs, commissions, task forces and spending.

Who is left out

The largest group excluded from the negotiation? Illinois ordinary. They’re the ones who have to pay for the inevitable rate hikes and future tax hikes to pay all the freebies – and the potential risks inherent in Illinois power completely turning into renewables.

The energy bill deserved to be delayed for reasons other than political. Lack of transparency, for example. Even among supporters of the bill, it is likely that few know the math behind it or have even taken the time to read what they are going to pass. Considering how Illinois lawmakers tend to pass 1,000-page budgets at the last minute every year, that’s a pretty safe bet.

Passage of the bill in one form or another is inevitable. With qualified majorities in place, Democrats are likely to get by.

This is Illinois, so expect special interests to win and ordinary Illinois to lose.

A better plan would be to engage with those most affected by energy changes – residents and businesses.

A coalition of business organizations recently asked exactly that: “On behalf of those most affected by this legislation, we urge you to delay this legislation and meaningfully engage consumers, business owners, organizations. and the municipalities who will bear the costs. “


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