By JOHN O'CONNOR
A plan to financially reward Exelon Corp. for producing no-carbon energy and potentially save three Illinois nuclear plants from closure would cost ratepayers $1.6 billion over five years and strain budgets for financially strapped businesses and municipal governments, a study released Tuesday found.
Kestler Energy Consulting conducted the review for the consumer group BEST Coalition, which opposes what critics say is a "bailout" for an otherwise profitable Exelon.
Consumers would have to pony up more for electric bills and face higher tax bills from local governments absorbing higher costs, BEST Coalition Director Dave Lundy, accompanied by representatives of AARP, told a state Capitol news conference.
"Our governments around this state are strapped," Lundy said. "We don't have more money to throw, and certainly not more money to throw at a very profitable corporation."
Exelon wants its Illinois distributors ComEd and Ameren to buy clean-energy "credits"- subsidies - as an incentive similar to perks granted to solar and wind power and other clean-energy producers. Without the help, Exelon says it might have to close nuclear plants in Byron, the Quad Cities and Clinton.
The study found that a typical ComEd household would pay $2.38 more per month and Ameren clients would pay $2.17.
Exelon spokesman Paul Elsberg said the company hadn't reviewed the study, but pointed to a state-commissioned review issued in January that determined if three nuclear plants closed, it would cost Illinois up to $1.8 billion a year in economic activity, 8,000 jobs, and more than $1 billion in adverse economic and environmental costs, higher energy prices and new transmission lines. A decision to close the plants would dwarf the cost of the incentive, Elsberg said.
"The cost to Illinois of allowing nuclear plants to close early are as much as 12 times greater" than ratepayers would pay under the legislation, Elsberg said, because of higher power and transmission costs and effects on environment and economy.
Lundy said Exelon should open its books to an outside expert before the Legislature takes the company's word on financial losses.