A Viable Option for Nuclear Power in the Face of Rising Electricity Costs | New


As parts of the state brace for higher electricity costs, other parts of Illinois are likely getting a break.

In September, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, a clean energy law that provided $694 million in taxpayer-funded grants to keep three of the Illinois nuclear power plants running. ‘Illinois.

When electricity prices soared this spring, once-loss-making nuclear plants suddenly became profitable, helping to offset rate hikes for consumers.

Two of the nuclear power stations – the Byron and Dresden stations – had been on the chopping block because they were racking up big losses. The nuclear energy they produced could not compete with cheaper natural gas and subsidized renewables. ComEd’s parent company, Exelon, was determined to shut them down.

Lawmakers voted to keep the plants running in order to avoid the loss of several thousand jobs and preserve the supply of clean energy available. Zero-emission nuclear power is key to helping Illinois meet its benchmark climate change goal of moving to 40% renewable energy by 2030.

Currently, nuclear energy provides 90% of Illinois’ clean energy, said Mason Emnett, vice president of public policy for Constellation Energy, at The Center Square.

“As the state transitions and builds other clean energy technologies, we really see the entire clean energy ecosystem working together to meet the state’s climate goals. “, Emnett said.

The nuclear plant subsidy ended up being an investment in price stability, Emnett said.

Because rising energy prices have made Illinois nuclear plants more profitable, the electricity they provide has turned into a hedge against high electricity prices, rather than the bailout that lawmakers had considered last fall.

Keeping more expensive nuclear plants operating is essential for the eventual transition to renewables, Emnett said.

“Leading scientists and environmental groups agree that achieving our climate goals really depends on preserving this country’s nuclear fleet, while also investing in clean energy technologies, electrification and energy efficiency,” Emnett said. . strategy we need to achieve our climate goals.”

Starting in June, ComEd customers will see a credit of about $19.71 on their electricity bills, Emnett said. The average customer will save $231 over the next year, the Illinois Commerce Commission said.

“What was originally going to be a payment to the fleet ends up being a payment to the customers,” Emnett said. “The law is working exactly as intended – keeping critical zero-carbon energy facilities running during periods of low prices. But then when prices spike, it’s to make sure customers see the benefits.”

Customers in Illinois have not paid nuclear power plants a penny under the law and instead will receive substantial credit, Emnett said.

In other parts of the state more reliant on fossil fuel power generation, consumers are told to expect higher prices of more than $50 more per month.

At an Illinois House utilities committee hearing last month, Jim Blessing, vice president of regulatory policy and energy supply for Ameren Illinois, said the higher costs were associated with the change in attitude of the United States towards fossil fuels.

“It’s just a byproduct of a national clean energy transition that’s happening today,” Blessing said.

Several industry stakeholders have warned that part of the state could experience power outages due to power reliability issues.

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