• Exelon was on a "full court press" last week lobbying lawmakers in Washington D.C. and Illinois in an effort to save struggling nuclear plants. (EnergyWire)
• Company officials are optimistic its bill will pass in Illinois. (Quad-City Times)
• Advocates say Ameren Illinois customers farther downstate would have to help cover some of Exelon's costs without seeing any benefits. (Southern Illinoisan)
Estimates for new reactor construction costs continue to sky-rocket. Conservative estimates range between $6 and $12 billion per reactor but Standard & Poor's predicts a continued rise. The nuclear power industry is lobbying for heavy federal subsidization including unlimited loan guarantees but the Congressional Budget Office predicts the risk of default will be well over 50 percent, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear opposes taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for the nuclear energy industry.
With time running out, profitable Exelon's $300 million nuclear bailout bill is a "ball of confusion"
Thanks to Scott Stapf, for his Tweet (see title, above) pointing out this column by Tom Kacich in The News-Gazette.
Op-ed: $300 million nuclear bailout in Illinois for profitable Exelon won't "guarantee jobs or help workers adapt"
Thanks to Scott Stapf for the Tweet (see title line above), pointing to an excellent op-ed by Abe Scarr, director of Illinois PIRG, published in the Chicago Sun Times.
For immediate release, Thursday, May 19, 2016
EXELON BILL IS CORPORATE WELFARE BAILOUT, GROUP CONTENDS
Bill designed to bailout failing nuclear plants, transfer wealth, kill renewables, group testifies
SPRINGFIELD— Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago testified today before the Illinois State Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee that the new Exelon legislation amounted to a “corporate welfare bailout” designed to kill renewable energy and “transfer wealth from Illinois ratepayers to Exelon shareholders.”
Speaking at a Subject Matter hearing, NEIS Director David Kraft urged legislators to reject the flawed Exelon legislation – Amendment 3 to SB.1585, the so-called “Next Generation Energy Plan” – and fix the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) as soon as possible, and before considering any Exelon reactor bailout schemes.
“Exelon’s obstructionism has done real harm to Illinois renewable energy,” Kraft notes. “[Exelon] now suggests that it will continue to do that harm unless its failed and anachronistic business model is ‘rewarded’ – bailed out. It is simply inappropriate and irresponsible – and dumb energy policy – to reward such self-fulfilling prophecy,” Kraft told the Committee.
The RPS program has been unable to access millions of dollars in collected money to build new renewable energy generating facilities in Illinois due to an unforeseen glitch in the original law. Exelon lobbyists have helped stall that fix for the past 4 years, while at the same time creating pro-nuclear front groups to lobby the Illinois Legislators for a financial bailout of allegedly money-losing nuclear reactors in Illinois.
The original amount Exelon suggested was $1.6 billion over five years, an amount which has been scaled back in successive versions of their hardship story, in part due to positive gains in the local energy markets. While not stated directly in the current Exelon bill, the bailout ask is now estimated to be anywhere from $100 to $150 million per year for the money losing Clinton-1 and Quad Cities 1&2 reactors. While pleading financial hardship at these reactors, Exelon’s Christopher Crane pledged to shareholders in Exelon’s 4Q report earlier this year that they would receive an annual 2.5% increase in dividends over the next three years.
“Some hardship,” observes Kraft. “These reactors are Exelon’s private assets. There is no rational justification for ratepayers – the public – to subsidize these private assets, and certainly not without getting some kind of equity for use of their money,” Kraft asserts. “If Exelon keeps the assets, let their shareholders pay for their operation,” he said.
Exelon claims that their legislation would “level the playing field for all clean energy sources to compete…” and “…recognize the zero-carbon benefits of nuclear power.”
“Why single out the low-carbon benefits for reward?” Kraft asks. “Should not RE/EE be rewarded for the facts that they not only are lower-carbon emitters than nuclear, but they eliminate the costly and risky societal burdens of radioactive waste production and disposal, and nuclear proliferation of materials, expertise, technology and ultimately nuclear weapons and terrorism. Should not these positive societal benefits be compensated for additional reward?” Kraft points out.
Kraft also criticized the Exelon threat of job and economic loss stemming from their proposed closure of Clinton and Quad Cities, noting that renewable energy and energy efficiency, sectors which the Exelon nuclear bailout could severely damage and Exelon’s obstruction of the RPS fix already has, account for 12 times the number of direct jobs statewide as would be lost at the two reactors, and as much as 25 times the total number if including indirect jobs. “If legislators are concerned about jobs across the State, they should focus on fixing the RPS,” Kraft maintained. He also recommended establishing “just transition funds” for all reactor communities which will inevitably face reactor closures when the reactor licenses expire. This suggestion has received positive response from some legislators.
As reported by Dan Petrella at the Southern Illinoisan, despite a three-hour long hearing, it is still unclear what the final outcome will be regarding Exelon's demand for the State Legislature to bailout it out, to the tune of many hundreds of millions of dollars, at ratepayer expense, in order to prop up its noncompetitive Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants.
Steve Daniels at Crain's Chicago Business reports that Exelon is demanding up to $290 million per year in surcharges on rateapayers' electric bills.
Although, as the Crain's article reports, Exelon's lobbyists have privately told lawmakers the average annual surcharge would be more like $170 million, these "nuclear taxes" would go on for several long years.
The Crain's article reports:
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, in an email, called the legislation “a bailout for an already profitable company. While it's packaged slightly differently, Exelon's proposal still demands consumers pay more only to boost the company's profits. The state is in its 11th month without a budget, and the legislature should focus on that.”
Exelon has threatened to close its Clinton atomic reactor by June 1, 2017, if it's billion dollar bailout bill is not enacted.
US Senator on high cost of nuclear: "I'm not anti-nuclear...I like Maseratis, I just can't afford them."
Thanks to Scott Stapf for the Tweet (see title line, above), pointing to an E&E article by Hannah Northey, entitled "NUCLEAR: Hearing on new reactors turns into colloquy on subsidies."
Of course, given the huge bailouts nuclear utilities are seeking, from IL to OH to NY, it's not just new reactors seeking subsidies, but old ones too! See entries about this elsewhere in this NUCLEAR COSTS website section.