Illinois Energy Bill Makes Progress – Demand Charges Are Dropped

 Senate Bill 2814 introduced during the regular session came back during the latest special session with a new amendment, House Amendment 2. This amendment had multiple objectives but the primary one is a mechanism to keep two nuclear power plants in operation. The two plants, Clinton Power and Quad Cities, were announced to be closed on June1st 2017 and 2018, respectively.

The Zero Emission Standard is the vital part of the bill that Exelon has stated would allow the plants to remain in operation. The bill also includes a fix of the renewable portfolio standard and energy efficiency investments, both touted as a positive step forward by the environmental lobby.

Two sections of the amended SB 2814 are worrisome to the solar industry, the net metering changes and demand charges. The demand charge section is onerous in its complexity, it would render the ability for consumers to know how to use energy cost effectively impossible. At the same time, it would be increasingly difficult for solar installers to explain the potential savings to homeowners or business that want to invest in solar.

Yesterday, the Governor’s Policy Advisor on Energy, Jason Heffley, found the demand rates to be “insane rates” and should be rejected. On a policy call, Representative Will Guzzardi, who sits on the Energy Committee currently reviewing the bill, said that he would not be surprised that the bill would pass without dropping the demand charge language.

Today, Governor Rauner’s team met with officials from ComEd and Exelon to discuss the issue of the demand charges. Shortly after the meeting, ComEd announced that it was dropping the demand charge provisions from the bill. The nuclear power plants, the company stated, will stay open for at least another decade.

In a statement from TASC spokesperson, Amy Heart said about the agreement, “There may still be important tweaks needed to the bill, including ensuring a full stakeholder process at the Commission when the 5% net metering cap is reached to guarantee a fair valuation of the benefits of rooftop solar, ensuring distributed solar can continue to thrive, creating job opportunities and improving Illinois’ environment.”

By Yann Brandt, November 22nd, Updated 10:07pm