ComEd carbon credit to cut bills by $20 a month in June, a dividend from the bailout of 3 troubled nuclear plants in Illinois – Chicago Tribune

ComEd customers will begin receiving credit of about $20 a month in June, a windfall dividend from the state bailout of three troubled nuclear power plants last fall.

The carbon mitigation credit, which will appear as a new line item on ComEd bills through May 2023, will save the average customer $237 over one year, the Illinois Commerce Commission announced Wednesday. .

The estimated $1 billion credit reflects a dramatic reversal of fortune for Illinois taxpayers and a trio of nuclear power plants that were subsidized under the Climate and Fair Jobs Act. In September, Governor JB Pritzker signed into law the Clean Energy Bill, which requires Illinois utilities to get 40% of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind power from 2030. The bill also provided funding to support the towns of Byron, Dresden and Braidwood. nuclear power plants as a source of clean energy.

ComEd’s parent company, Exelon, had threatened to close underperforming plants in Byron and Dresden without legislative action. The nuclear bailout was expected to cost ComEd taxpayers $700 million over five years, but rising energy prices combined with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suddenly made all three nuclear plants more profitable.

Chicago-based Exelon spun Constellation, its former power generation subsidiary, into a standalone company in February.

“To date, consumers in Illinois have not paid a cent to nuclear power plants under the law and will instead receive a substantial credit,” Constellation spokesman Paul Adams said in a statement Wednesday. a statement. “If energy prices fall again, the law ensures that these plants have the financial security to stay in operation and continue to advance the state’s ambitious climate goals.”

While Adams said the state’s clean energy bill is “working exactly as intended,” the $1.7 billion shift from a taxpayer-funded subsidy to a credit was not the result. expected by many when it was enacted last fall.

“It’s a surprise,” said David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, an Illinois nonprofit watchdog group. “But the main driver of rising energy prices is the Russian invasion, and I don’t know if people predicted that.”

Kolata said the clean energy bill acts as a hedge against fluctuating energy prices for Constellation and ratepayers. The subsidy provides certainty to nuclear power plants which, before the bill passed, said they could not compete with cheaper power from fossil fuels and subsidized renewable sources such as wind and solar. With the sudden spike in energy prices, the bill now protects consumers.

“It was in the bill, because if the nuclear plants don’t need the money, they shouldn’t have it,” Kolata said. “We get a refund paid by the nuclear power plants because they earn more than they agreed.”

While consumers are ahead in the first year, lower energy prices could tip the nuclear plant bailout to a taxpayer-funded subsidy in subsequent years, Kolata said.

The credit will appear on ComEd bills from June on a line titled “Carbonless Energy Resource Adjustment”.

Earlier this month, ComEd filed a proposed $199 million increase in electricity delivery charges with the ICC, seeking the biggest rate hike since 2014. If approved by regulators in state, it would add $2.20 per month to the average residential customer bill starting in January 2023.

ComEd provides electricity to more than 4 million customers in Northern Illinois.

rchannick@chicagotribune.com