Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Pritzker expected to sign energy bill that will keep Byron nuclear plant open

By Greg Bishop
The Center Square

SPRINGFIELD — A measure changing the state’s energy policies for the next quarter of a century is headed to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said he’ll sign it.

During a special session for the Illinois Senate on Monday, senators approved the House version of a bill that would give nearly $700 million in ratepayer subsidies to Exelon, create renewable energy jobs programs and close coal-fired power plants by 2045.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, was critical of the entire bill, saying it’s misguided.

“All those electrons are going to get backfilled from Indiana and Kentucky with carbon,” Rose said during a debate Monday. “We’re going to trade carbon for carbon except this time we get the privilege of paying more for it.”

Democrats dismissed that as Republican talking points and said the measure will keep the state’s major energy providers through nuclear open.

Exelon had slated several of its nuclear fleet for closure within days if the bill had not passed with the ratepayer subsidies. The measure could see those subsidies rebated back to ratepayers if there is federal tax money offered to nuclear generation facilities – something that hasn’t materialized.

“This new policy offers a better future for the employees who have run these plants at world-class levels, the plant communities that we are privileged to serve and all Illinoisans eager to build a clean-energy economy that works for everyone,” Exelon President and CEO Christopher Crane said in a statement.

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said this won’t be the last word on the issue.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, there will be more votes,” Harmon said. “There will inevitably be changes. Innovations that we can’t even imagine today will happen tomorrow and we or some future group of legislators will act accordingly.”

Supporters of the measure said in anticipation of closing for-profit coal plants by 2030, there will be electric grid reliability studies by regulators in 2025.

The Sierra Club said the measure was important to bring about “climate justice and workforce transition.”

“This victory sets Illinois on a path to a carbon-free power sector by 2050, builds an equitable clean energy future for all Illinoisans, and holds utilities accountable,” the group said in a statement.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch told WMAY before the vote the measure will remove Illinois’ ability to remain affordable for businesses.

“Be ready for cost increases and that means hiring decisions, investment decisions, anything that’s financial is going to be impacted, there’s no doubt about it,” Maisch said.

Democrats said without the measure, energy costs would have increased on job creators.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the measure will create jobs.

“There are so many renewables companies that are looking to do business in the state of Illinois to enhance our capability, that’s precisely what we’re trying to do,” Pritzker said Monday afternoon.

Pritzker said he’ll sign the bill promptly.

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