Bipartisan Compromise Brings Energy Reform To Illinois


Partisan politics has almost become the norm in the United States, and disagreements over energy policy are no exception. Except, perhaps, in the state of Illinois.


In December, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that will bring reform to energy policy in his state. Senate Bill 2814, sponsored by Democratic State Representative Bob Rita, represents two years of hard-knocks negotiation and no small amount of compromise on all sides. Dubbed the “Future Energy Jobs Bill,” it has a little bit of something for all parties concerned, but it stops short of giving any of them everything they might have wanted.


At its core, the bill represents common ground between utilities and environmentalists over the fate of two aging nuclear power plants and Illinois’s commitment to clean energy. It also represents a victory for ratepayer advocates and politicians who desperately want to avoid job losses.


The landmark legislation contains ratepayer subsidies to keep the state’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants open for another 10 years. It also contains a guaranteed cap that energy prices cannot increase more than 25 cents on the average residential home, or more than 1.3 percent on commercial and industrial users during that same time frame.


The new law also expands the state’s energy-efficiency programs and makes changes to the state’s renewable portfolio standard, both sought by renewable advocates.


What was stricken from the bill was as instrumental to its passage as what was included. For example, last-minute negotiations removed language for prevailing wage requirements, a fixed-resource adequacy plan, residential demand charges and the elimination of retail rate net metering for solar customers.


Reaction to the final legislation was mostly positive. Dave Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, called it a “big win for consumers.”


Rauner said the bill “allows us to protect jobs, ratepayers and taxpayers.”


Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, confessed that the “bill contains difficult compromises,” but still described it as “a tremendous leap forward for clean energy.”


About the Author

Rick Laezman

Freelance Writer

Rick Laezman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been covering renewable power for more than 10 years. He may be reached at richardlaezman@msn.com.

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