SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois Governor JB Pritzker on Monday indicated he would sign into law a 1,000-page energy proposal just minutes after the State Senate approved it.
It includes the biggest utility rate increase in Illinois history.
But supporters predict it will help entrepreneurs create thousands of new, "clean-energy" jobs.
"I'm very proud and pleased to see that Illinois is going to be one of the leading states in the nation when it comes to addressing climate change. This climate bill, this energy bill really is transformative," Pritzker said.
Critics of the proposal warn it could reduce reliability of the electric grid in Illinois because it forces the eventual shutdown of all gas- and coal-fired power plants, including the Prairie State coal plant that was built after signing 35-year contracts with several suburban communities.
"Those living in St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia will be stuck, stuck paying off long-term debt for energy they will not be receiving from Prairie State," said Republican State Senator Donald Dewitte of St. Charles.
The bill also provides training for workers seeking jobs setting up solar and wind power facilities.
A senior citizen lobby group, AARP, estimates the measure will raise electric utility bills by $180 a year on a typical consumer. Supporters say it is worth it to combat climate change, to keep Illinois’ fleet of nuclear power plants operating, and to fund new clean energy jobs.
"We’re talking tens of thousands of jobs, not just at these plants. But tens of thousands of jobs that will be created not just in Chicago, but in southern Illinois," said Democrat State Senator Michael Hastings of Frankfort.
ComEd's parent company — Exelon — will get a new, multi-million dollar subsidy to keep operating nuclear plants it had threatened to shut down permanently beginning Monday. Critics said the measure would destroy more jobs than it helps to create by hitting businesses with electric utility rate increases of up to 15 percent.
"I submit that this bill is a blatant attack on small businesses, and a disservice to downstate Illinois. I strongly urge a ‘No’ vote for the highest energy increase in Illinois history," said Republican State Senator Terri Bryant of Murphysboro.
What guarantees more changes to come in state energy policy is that those controversial mandatory shutdowns of fossil fuel plants do not take effect until the years 2035 and 2045 — a generation away.