Illinois is heading toward a green energy future. Our region is fortunate to have several nuclear facilities that produce carbon-free energy that is reliable – even on the hottest summer days. Renewables are coming online in greater numbers to begin the process of replacing aging coal-burning facilities that are scheduled to be retired in the coming years.
Clean energy challenges facing Illinois
The discussions preceding the 2021 passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act of which Rep. Keith Wheeler voted in favor, were lengthy and thorough while being based on the best estimates of energy usage, costs and availability. Rep. Wheeler was appointed to be one of two House Republican Leaders to attend the months of negotiations.
A critically important aspect of the discussions was to keep Illinois’ nuclear fleet intact at a time when several plants were not performing economically and were under threat of shutdown by Exelon. A fair and thoughtful price support approach was approved in the bill which made all of the nuclear plants economically viable when prices were low. By the middle of 2022, despite all forecasts for lower energy generation costs, residential customers in the ComEd territory were set to receive an average of $18/month in savings due to the higher revenues that Exelon was receiving from producing power at their nuclear facilities. That aspect of CEJA worked to benefit consumers as well as the environment.
There are huge concerns for downstate Illinois which doesn’t have the same nuclear infrastructure and, consequently, the same price support incentives which are helping ComEd customers. Warnings have been given to consumers of rolling blackouts/brownouts if demand exceeds available supply. Further legislative discussions are ongoing to address these reliability issues as we transition to cleaner energy sources.
Clean energy is a priority for Illinois and we have taken important steps to get there. We will need to balance affordability and reliability throughout the clean energy transition.
Keith R. Wheeler