As energy talks crumble, some eye standalone nuclear deal

(The Center Square) – With the slated closure of the Dresden and Byron Exelon nuclear power facilities because of the lack of statehouse action on a comprehensive energy bill, some are looking in different directions to keep the facilities in operation.

Exelon has filed plans with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to close its Byron and Dresden facilities. The company has said more closures are possible in the years ahead.

“The filings are among the final steps in retiring the plants, which face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars due to low energy prices and market policies that give fossil fuel plants an unfair competitive advantage,” the company said in a statement. “Absent a legislative solution, these same market inequities will force the company to close its Braidwood and LaSalle nuclear facilities sometime in the next few years.”

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said in a statement he’s disappointed the parties negotiating a deal at the statehouse could not come to an agreed path forward. Some of the opposition stems from proposals to close coal-fired power plants by 2035.

“The Illinois Senate remains committed to enacting an aggressive, nation-leading energy plan that is renewable, reliable and affordable for the people of our state,” Harmon said.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said lawmakers should come together and pass a standalone ratepayer subsidy of $700 million over five years for Exelon’s nuclear fleet.

“Actually, that’s the cheapest part of the energy bill that was proposed by the governor which by the way does not have enough votes to pass, but the nuclear component is the cheapest part of that energy bill,” Rezin said.

State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said if the move to green energy is so imperative, the federal government should provide resources.

“So I don’t think it should be on the backs of Illinsoians alone to solve that problem,” Batinick said. “We can lend a hand, but it shouldn’t be just on us.”

Harmon said he’s “encouraged by recent news out of DC that federal leaders may reach a bipartisan agreement on providing billions worth of federal assistance to clean energy resources, which would be a major win for Illinois.”

Rezin said the nuclear plants in Illinois slated for closure can’t wait for the federal government.

“The problem is by the time their infrastructure bill is passed and the tax credits are implemented, it does not help the nuclear fleet in the state of Illinois,” Rezin said. “What we can do though, which would make sense, is when we write this bill is to write the bill as a bridge.”

Batinick said he supports having federal funds available. He said having the state go it alone with a $700 million ratepayer subsidy over five years is the wrong approach.

“In my opinion, you can’t do equity if it includes a massive ratepayer subsidy,” Batinick said. “It doesn’t work. It just will not work.”

Batinick said if the state’s policies get too far ahead of the rest of the country by closing coal-fired plants, energy resources will move to neighboring states and take energy jobs and jobs in manufacturing industries elsewhere.

The Senate intends to keep discussions going with stakeholders in an effort to produce legislation to get enough support in the legislature, Harmon said.

“Our goal is to protect jobs and promote a clean energy future because we can and should do both,” Harmon said.

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