SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Nine-hundred pages of energy legislation pending in the Illinois State Capitol also contains a rate increase for electricity consumers. The only question: just how big will it be?
One reason for the rate increase is that state officials are moving to give energy giant Exelon/ComEd a subsidy about twice as large as an independent auditor recommended.
While negotiations over some details continue, FOX 32 News has learned there is a tentative deal to expand the ratepayer subsidies now provided for two nuclear power plants owned and operated by Exelon. Ratepayers would now subsidize three more nuclear plants.
Exelon also owns energy distributor ComEd. Several former ComEd executives await trial on charges related to what the company says were bribes paid to allies of former House Speaker Mike Nadigan. Madigan has not been charged.
A source close to the negotiations says the deal pays Exelon $600 to $700 million over the next five years for the three nuclear plants being added to the deal. A utility watchdog says that is unfair to electricity consumers.
Abe Scarr of Illinois PIRG urged lawmakers to reject the proposal if it comes to a vote when the House and Senate reconvene next week.
"We have an outside, independent look at their plants and a recommendation, based on evidence, that they don't need more than $350 million over the next five years. But somehow we're still giving them potentially twice that much," he said.
As it has for years, Exelon/ComEd threatens to shut down several of the nuclear power plants. Governor JB Pritzker wants to keep them all online, not least because they generate more than half the Chicago area's electricity, without sending climate-changing carbon into the atmosphere.
"People are gonna have a stable source of electricity," Pritzker recently said on Flannery Fired Up. "And they're gonna know that we're saving the planet."
A source close to the talks said Exelon/ComEd initially demanded $1.5 billion. The source said former Governor Bruce Rauner's subsidy deal for two nukes paid Exelon more than $15 per megawatt hour. The source said Pritzker should be praised because the tentative deal for three additional plants would pay Exelon only one-sixth of that: $2.55 per megawatt hour.
The 900-pages of draft energy legislation also includes provisions on renewable energy. It would phase out fossil fuel plants that send carbon and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.