The Illinois General Assembly has passed the Future Energy Jobs Act, one of the most significant pieces of energy legislation in the past 20 years. CUB members should know about this new law.
What is it?
The Future Energy Jobs Act (Senate Bill 2814) is a compromise bill that was passed in December, after nearly two years of negotiations among energy companies, consumer and environmental advocates, and legislators. CUB won major, pro-consumer provisions in the bill.
What are the main provisions?
•Energy efficiency: Illinois’ biggest utilities are required to reduce electricity waste by a record 21.5 percent (for ComEd) and 16 percent (for Ameren) by 2030. This will lower power bills by billions of dollars.
•Renewable energy: The act fixes state renewable energy laws, which will spark billions of dollars in new investment to develop wind and solar power in Illinois. It also launches something that utilities have resisted for years: a community solar program that will allow entire neighborhoods to enjoy the benefits of solar energy—even homes that can’t install solar panels.
•Low Income/Jobs: The act devotes $750 million to low-income programs that provide training for new energy jobs and help consumers cut utility bills. The act is expected to spark tens of thousands of jobs connected to improvements in efficiency and renewable energy.
•Zero Emissions Credit (ZEC): This calls for Exelon to get extra revenue (capped at $235 million per year for 10 years) to keep open two nuclear power plants, in Clinton and Cordova. Increases are limited to an average of 25 to 35 cents a month for customers. If the ZEC were the only provision and if consumer protections hadn’t been added to the bill, CUB would have opposed it.
Who supported the bill?
This legislation was supported by more than 200 nonprofit and business groups, including CUB, Faith in Place, Illinois Peoples’ Action, Sierra Club Illinois, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
What is CUB’s analysis of the act?
CUB opposed the initial versions of the bill for more than a year because it simply called for Exelon, the parent company of ComEd, to get extra revenue to keep all of its nuclear plants open. The consumer watchdog became involved in negotiations because it was concerned about two possibilities:
1) Bad legislation would get passed, and Exelon, Illinois’ biggest energy company, would get a full-fledged bailout, with no consumer benefits.
2) No legislation would get passed. Exelon was threatening to close two nuclear power plants, and CUB was concerned that would cause power prices to skyrocket.
Both possibilities would have been more expensive for consumers, so CUB fought for adding pro-consumer protections to the act.
As with any compromise, we’re not pleased with every part of the legislation. However, the pro-consumer provisions make the overall bill a win for Illinois consumers.