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Update: CEJA must pass this session, despite COVID-19

CUB’s consumer advocacy work during the Coronavirus emergency includes fighting rate hikes–and that’s why we’re continuing to push for passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act during this spring legislative session. It just can’t wait. 

CEJA not only puts Illinois on a path to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, but it will also make the state 100 percent carbon-free by 2030. Most urgently, the act would prevent a federal ruling that threatens most Illinois consumers with up to $864 million in higher power bills.

Issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in late 2019, the ruling restructures the “capacity market,” a special electricity market that affects what consumers pay on their power bills for long-term power supply. 

The price for capacity for ComEd customers is determined through auctions run by PJM Interconnection, the out-of-state power grid operator for northern Illinois and all or part of 12 other states and Washington, D.C. 

During these auctions, power generators bid against each other for the right to cover a certain amount of future power demand, and win those capacity payments. This process is not very consumer-friendly, and it has needlessly inflated Illinois electric bills in recent years by over-procuring electricity from dirty fossil fuels. The FERC ruling would deal a crippling blow to Illinois’ clean energy future by raising auction bidding prices for resources that receive state subsidies, such as renewables, effectively rewarding fossil fuel polluters.

NOTE: On Thursday, FERC voted to uphold its decision. The commission also denied requests to rehear its 2019 order approving PJM’s capacity demand curve, which critics say is too high and therefore leads to inflated market pricing. Commissioner Richard Glick was the only dissenting vote, calling the ruling “just plain garbage.”

To prevent this ruling from hitting Illinois, we have to act now. We don’t have time to wait until next session. The next PJM auction to determine capacity prices is scheduled for the end of this year. The General Assembly must pass CEJA as soon as possible to save customers from higher electric bills.

“There will be devastating consequences for Illinois consumers if we don’t pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act on May 31,” said David Kolata, Executive Director of the Citizens Utility Board. “The FERC decision was designed to raise our bills and punish the clean energy progress we’ve made in Illinois. If we don’t counteract the ruling, it’s bad news for our bills and the environment.”

To negate the FERC ruling, CEJA puts the Illinois Power Agency (IPA)—a state agency that manages energy purchases for ComEd and Ameren—in charge of the capacity market, instead of PJM. Putting the state fully in charge of its own clean energy policy could save consumers money while greatly expanding renewable energy investment in the state.

“If we don’t pass CEJA now and put the IPA in charge of the capacity market, Illinois will lose all the progress we’ve made to secure clean, affordable energy,” Kolata said.