Exelon announced Thursday that it is postponing for one year any decisions about the future operations of its Quad Cities and Byron nuclear plants.
In a statement, Exelon said the Quad Cities and Byron nuclear power plants will continue operations through at least May 2018 and May 2019, respectively.
The announcement comes after all of Exelon’s “nuclear plants in the PJM market cleared in the transition capacity auction for the 2017-18 planning year,” the company said.
“While Quad Cities and Byron remain economically challenged, we are encouraged by the results of the recent capacity auctions. The new market reforms help to recognize the unique value of always-on nuclear power, while preserving the reliability of our electric system,” said Exelon president and CEO Chris Crane. “However, these plants are long-lived assets with decades of useful life left, and today’s decision is only a short-term reprieve. Policy reforms are still needed to level the playing field for all forms of clean energy and best position the state of Illinois to meet EPA’s new carbon reduction rules.”
Business groups are also weighing in on Exelon’s announcement. Gregory Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, had this to say:
Safe, affordable and reliable energy is essential for both Illinois residents and businesses. Illinois is a national leader in energy because of our competitive electric market featuring an “all of the above” approach with nuclear power, natural gas, coal and renewable energy. Illinois’ competitive energy market has created some of the lowest electric rates in the United States for consumers while supporting thousands of jobs in our communities.
The nuclear fleet in Illinois provides nearly half of all the electricity generated in the state in a low cost, efficient manner. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is pleased with Exelon’s announcement that they are deferring a decision on the future of the Quad City and Byron Nuclear Plants by one year. This is good news for those local communities, their economies, and thousands of employees. However, this decision does not end the energy debate in Illinois. Changes in federal energy rules combined with competing energy proposals in Springfield mean that it is critically important that Illinois policymakers foster a robust discussion in the coming weeks with all stakeholders to ensure that Illinois remains a national energy leader.
Chicago-based Exelon, the parent company of ComEd, claims its Byron, Clinton and Quad Cities plants in the state are struggling economically in part because of competition from natural gas and subsidized renewables. The nuclear giant has warned that the three plants could close prematurely if measures are not put in place by state lawmakers to help boost its supposedly unprofitable facilities.
Specifically, Exelon is pushing for a “low-carbon portfolio standard” in Illinois to help its financially-struggling power plants.
To justify possible intervention from the state legislature, Exelon maintains that its low-emission nuclear plants would be central to Illinois’ compliance with new carbon emission regulations under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
Leaders with the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, however, assert that their legislation designed to strengthen statewide standards around energy efficiency and renewable energy would play a key role in the state’s path to complying with the new federal carbon-cutting regulations. Other critics of Exelon’s proposal say giving the company a “bailout” is not in the best interest of consumers.