A yearslong drama over the future of Illinois’ energy mix and climate policy may be entering the final act, if not the final scene.
Chicago-based Exelon Corp. has set Monday as the day it pulls the plug on the Byron nuclear plant in northern Illinois — one of the nation’s largest — unless the Illinois General Assembly passes legislation to rescue it from an early retirement (Energywire, Aug. 26).
The Illinois Senate passed a bill last week that would spare the plant, providing $694 million in nuclear aid over five years. The 980-page energy and climate bill would also spur a huge build-out of solar energy, help put more electric vehicles on Illinois highways and include an array of equity provisions and labor standards aimed at ensuring that the benefits of a transition away from fossil fuels are widely shared.
The passage of legislation that will pave the way for Illinois’ energy future is far from certain, however, because of disagreement over the phaseout of a fuel tied to the state’s past.
While S.B. 18 would end the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation by 2045, it wouldn’t require a stepdown in emissions leading up to that date — a provision that was included in previous drafts of the bill.
That means the hulking Prairie State Energy Campus, Illinois’ newest and largest coal plant, and one of the nation’s largest industrial sources of carbon dioxide, could run at full power until then.
An alternative proposal filed Friday night and supported by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) would include interim emissions reductions and require Prairie State and another municipally owned coal plant to reduce emissions 45 percent by 2035.