(The Center Square) – The Illinois House is being called back to Springfield on Thursday to take up sweeping energy legislation that could include interim carbon pollution reductions for two nonprofit coal power plants before they are required to shutter operation by 2045.
“I am pleased to see negotiations moving forward on a comprehensive energy proposal that prioritizes a greener future for Illinois, as well as meaningful ethics reform and maintaining our current workforce,” House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said in a statement Tuesday morning. “I am confident that we will have a plan that Illinois can be proud of and will be viewed as a model for many other states.”
Senate Bill 18, which passed the Senate in the early morning hours Sept. 1, was put in the House Executive Committee for Thursday, the same day Welch called the chamber back. But a different could advance.
“The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition strongly supports [Senate Bill] 1751, House Amendment 1,” the group said in a statement. “This language … includes an important new element – is the reasonable path forward to a true climate and equitable jobs bill.”
The legislation would force the closure of coal fired power plants like Prairie State Generation Company in southern Illinois and Springfield’s coal-fired power plant at City Water Light and Power. It could also require carbon pollution reductions at the facilities.
Over the summer, Prairie State Director of External Affairs Alyssa Harre said the nonprofit coal power plant continues to invest in carbon remediation. The facility is also part of a study for carbon capture technology.
“We’re excited about the future, but we need a reasonable runway to get to that future and to make that technology work for our campus,” Harre said.
CWLP is also set to study carbon capture, but Chief Engineer Doug Brown worried even with that, coal power would have to shut down by 2045 with more reliance put on renewable energy.
“And I think over time you’re going to see too as that transition starts occurring, the need for baseload generation and having more options available is going to kind of rise to the forefront and all of these issues will have to be revisited again,” Brown said.
Key statehouse negotiators of the sweeping measure have said this isn’t likely the final say on energy legislation. Lawmakers could come back in the years ahead and further tweak the state’s policies.
The measure now being considered could also provide ratepayer subsidies for nuclear power. Exelon has targeted two of its nuclear stations for closure if nothing is done at the statehouse, prompting Republicans and Democrats calling for action to save jobs at the Dresden and Byron nuclear plants.
There would also be money in the bill for renewable energy programs.
Opponents include the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
“Lawmakers appear poised to vote on the largest electric rate hike in our state’s history that will unfairly impact manufacturers that use one-third of our nation’s energy,” Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President and CEO Mark Denzler said. “Innovative manufacturers are committed to sustainability … Unfortunately, the issues of cost and reliability seem to be missing from this conversation.”
Brown said renewable energy has its place, but it has its own issues, such as the capacity of batteries and the waste generated by inoperable solar panels and wind turbines. Renewable energy is also reliant on base load power through coal, he said.
“When the sun starts setting or the wind stops blowing, you need those peaking units to be able to recover pretty quickly to recover that loss of generation,” Brown said.
As a new deal was coming together, Prairie State Generation Facility mechanic Ryan Peters said relying just on intermittent energy alone could be problematic.
“A very critical job that’s around the clock are hospitals,” Peters said. “They need reliable power. That reliable power comes from a baseload supply like coal.”