Deal to keep Exelon nuke plants open close to passage

SPRINGFIELD -- Exelon Energy has reached a deal with the Illinois legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on what some are calling a bailout for the energy giant.

The Future Energy Jobs Bill is expected to be voted on by the Illinois House sometime on Thursday and Rauner said today he plans to sign it after passage, thanks to an amendment hammered out that provides a cap on future rate increases for both business and residential customers.

“We thank and commend Governor Rauner and his professional staff for their focus on increasing robust customer rate protections, while maintaining the many benefits of this bill, including preserving and creating jobs and providing a shot in the arm to Illinois’ economy,” said Joe Dominguez, Exelon’s executive vice president, Governmental and Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy. “We will continue to work with legislative leaders and all policymakers today and tomorrow to enact this urgently needed legislation.”

The revised proposal retains important provisions to preserve 4,200 jobs at Exelon’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants, support cleaner air, create thousands of new clean energy jobs by advancing renewable energy development and providing businesses flexible options for capturing savings through expanded energy efficiency initiatives, according to a release sent out by Exelon late Wednesday afternoon.

The amendment includes protections that limit the impact of the legislation to all business classes at 1.3 percent compared to their 2015 rates and to cap the impact to residential customers at 25 cents per month for the average ComEd residential customer. Ameren business and residential customers received similar protections. The amendment already contained cost caps on key components of the legislation, including energy efficiency, the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the Zero Emission Standard.

The bill does have opposition from some quarters, however, including the pro-business BEST Coalition of Illinois, which claims it will result in the loss of jobs, increased utility rates and make the state less competitive.