Something as simple as flipping a light switch or warming your home on cold nights like tonight is in jeopardy.
Exelon's Quad Cities Generating Station in Cordova, Illinois is at the center of a conversation in Springfield right now.
"The state of Illinois is really in a historic position to establish an energy policy that recognizes carbon-free and renewable energy for the future generation in the state of Illinois," said Bill Stoermer, Communications Manager for Exelon.
Last week, Stoermer said legislators introduced one possible policy that Exelon thinks is the right solution, called the Low Carbon Portfolio Standard.
"It’s a market-based solution for Illinois," he explained. "It protects the consumer and the cost that they’ll pay for electricity and it really solidifies Illinois as the largest producer of carbon-free energy in the nation and solidifies that for a long period of time as well as setting the highest standard for carbon-free electricity in the nation."
That policy is based on a report recently prepared at the request of the Illinois General Assembly that found Illinois would lose nearly 8,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in annual economic activity if just three nuclear plants closed their doors. The study looked at different alternatives to "ensure that nuclear power plants can remain viable, that the market is fair and equable for all the people who produce energy and that we can continue operations here for the long term," said Stoermer.
On Wednesday, March 4th, 2015, a bipartisan coalition of the Illinois Congressional Delegation - that includes U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos - sent a letter to Governor Bruce Rauner as well as leaders of the Illinois Senate and House "urging them to consider legislative solution that would allow Illinois' nuclear plants to continue to operate." To read the letter, click here.
Under the policy supported by Exelon, residential customers would pay around $2 more a month. Those against the policy are challenging it, saying it's a bailout.
"Exelon made more than $2 billion last year, and here they are begging for a bailout on the backs of working Illinoisans," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. "This bill would increase rates for older adults living on fixed incomes, working families and small businesses in order to pad Exelon's profits. We will work on behalf of our 1.7 million Illinois members to urge legislators to vote 'no" on this bill."
Stoermer says Exelon is not looking for a bailout, but a "fair and equable way to bid into the market to sell the product that we believe is the most reliable and cleanest electricity produced in the state of Illinois."
Stoermer says there are three plants - including the Quad Cities Generating Station - that have been economically challenged by the current energy policies and the current way energy is sold in Illinois.
"If you look specifically at Quad Cities... you’re getting power outside the state that is coming through switch yards," he explained. "All of the power that’s produced in Iowa that comes across the state of Illinois comes through the switch yard in Cordova, so that causes congestion on the switch yard."
"The grid operators have to alleviate that congestion to ensure that the consumers continue to get electricity, so they put in what they call a 'negative pricing' which reduces the projects to the point sometimes where we’re operating at a negative balance for the power that we produce," he continued. "Once we put the nuclear plant online we want to to run that at full power for the entire operating cycle. We don’t want to cycle the unit which could challenge the equipment or challenge the plant, so at times we’re forced to operate this plant at a loss because we want to maintain the high level."
"Last year, we produced energy at 94.5% of the time, which is by far the most reliable source of electricity not only in Illinois, but across America."
Exelon's Quad Cities Generating Station also has a big economic impact on the area. Stoermer says in 2014 alone, the Quad Cities Station "directly and indirectly pumped nearly $1.4 billion into the Illinois economy, including more than $7 million paid in Rock Island County property taxes."