Two of Illinois' biggest power providers want the state to help them raise your electric bill.
Energy consumers all over the world benefitted as oil prices fell in recent years. But it has put heat on coal and nuclear power producers to become more efficient. Two operators are now threatening to shut down several aging power plants in Illinois, unless state government helps them charge tens of millions of dollars more. It would force many families to pay higher electric bills.
“I don't think I would be happy to pay higher rates, because I'm not too confident in the actual reason behind why rates are being raised,” said Paul Jackson of Chicago.
Unless consumers pay more, power producer Exelon, owner of Chicago-based ComEd, says it may close at least one nuclear plant. Dynegy says it could close three Downstate coal-fired power plants by next March, reducing the regions energy capacity and eliminating a few hundred jobs.
Environmentalists say Illinois should welcome the shutdown of coal-fired plants.
“We really don't need rate hikes to prop up old coal plants. What we need is to lower our bills by saving energy. We need plans for those communities and those workers,” said Jack Darin, director of Sierra Club of Illinois.
“If we're going to invest, let's invest in the clean, new technology of the future, the energy efficiency, the renewable energy,” said Howard Learner of Environmental Law and Policy.
The devil is in the details of this debate. For example, environmentalists who oppose a rate increase for Exelon/Com Ed's Nukes or those Downstate coal plants would go along with one if it meant more support for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.