How Exelon Nuclear Shut Down One State's Energy Policy

Energy policy is on hold in Illinois because of Exelon's statement earlier this year that it may have to shut down several nuclear power plants, a state senator said in Chicago Wednesday.
"I don't think anybody knows yet what it is that Exelon may be requesting from the state government related to nuclear plants. Until we know that, it's difficult to move on other Energy Policy," said Don Harmon, a Democratic senator from Oak Park, during a smart grid symposium at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Exelon campaigned vigorously–and succesfully–against extension of the federal tax credit for wind energy last year before warning early this year that it may have to close reactors. Yesterday, Exelon executives pressed that point again in a hearing before the Illinois Commerce Commission.
At issue is not just a proposed update of the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard, which stalled this spring after Exelon's statement, but all energy policy, Harmon said.
"Exelon worries have worried organized labor representatives and the workers they represent. Which worries legislators who worry about workers and unions," Harmon said. "So everyone is worried, and we don't know exactly what we're worried about, but we're all worried."
As frustrating as that is, Harmon said, he believes the "chaos and uncertainty" around energy policy creates an opportunity in Illinois for stronger legislation. Since the legislature recessed in Spring, the EPA released its draft Clean Power Plan, which will influence the resolution of the standoff.
In the past Harmon said "I'm in a mode to trust but verify" Exelon's statements. Wednesday he openly admired the legislative tactics of ComEd, Exelon's energy-delivery subsidiary:
I have to compliment ComEd on the way they have conducted their legislative politics in the last few decades. They have a couple of particular advantages: First, they employ a lot of people in Illinois and those are good paying jobs, and we react when those jobs are in jeopardy. Second, ComEd has walked the walk. A couple of decades ago when it was rare, ComEd was promoting to its top management African Americans, and as a result of that they built a relationship with the black caucus in Springfield that transcends simple politics. They are active in the community, they are attentive to the needs of legislators and the people they represent.
On Thursday, Media Relations Manager Paul Adams sent me this response to Harmon's comments from Exelon:
Illinois, like all states, is at a critical juncture in evaluating energy policy in light of new EPA rules that will require states to develop comprehensive plans to address greenhouse gases, while also ensuring reliability as older fossil plants retire and are increasingly replaced with natural gas. Illinois policy makers are leading the way in this regard by conducting outreach to key stakeholders and ordering various state agencies to engage in specific areas of study to address these challenges. These initiatives will create a body of work that will help Illinois consider policy changes aimed at maintaining existing sources of clean energy, including nuclear. It’s fitting that Illinois allow time for these studies to be completed so that it can arrive at the best possible, market-based solutions for the state and consumers, and Exelon looks forward to working with all stakeholders as part of that process.

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