Illinois Legislators should oppose Exelon’s current $700 million nuclear ransom demand. You can’t build an energy future by bailing out the past.
Recent revelations  that Exelon’s business partner EDF is curbing its enthusiasm for the creation of Exelon’s spin-off company “SpinCo” should warn Illinois legislators about the danger of granting the recently proposed nuclear bailout .
Earlier this year Exelon announced it would be splitting off and segregating its money-losing, unprofitable nuclear reactors into a separate entity called “SpinCo.”
“EDF said it feared that a nuclear power business without the backing of Exelon’s more financially stable regulated utilities could subject it to unforeseen costs…
“EDF recently wrote the New York Public Service Commission stating that, “The proposed spin transaction would result in a transfer of risks to EDF Inc. and to New York’s captive ratepayers….(Exelon’s) petition does not adequately address this transfer of risks. As such, the commission should conduct a full review of the proposed spin transaction…” [1; emphasis ours].
We fully agree. If there are serious risks to New York’s “captive ratepayers,” there are certainly unforeseen and presently undiscussed risks to Illinois’ ratepayers.
Yet, concurrently, Governor Pritzker has seen fit to “negotiate” a new $700 billion bailout gift for Exelon.
No rational person would blindly buy a house if 1.) you didn’t know the owner, do a pre-purchase inspection, and didn’t have a written contract for review and analysis; 2.) the assessed price came in way below the asking price; and 3.) serious liability questions remained before the title could clear.
But In a parallel move, that is PRECISELY what Governor Pritzker and the Legislature are poised to do next week, should they approve Exelon’s bailout. Handing over hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars to an entirely unknown entity not even endorsed by its own business partner seems to be, generously put, fiscally imprudent. But — Illinois.
What was once an independent, fact-based, $350 million 5-year bailout determined by the Governor-selected auditor, Synapse Energy Economics , has now doubled in size without rational justification or explanation. Another recent analysis suggests this amount could approach as high as $1 billion over time , with fluctuations in future energy prices. Anything above the Synapse amount is political pork and nuclear ransom, reminiscent of “the Madigan Way” we thought we left behind.
The Governor’s rationale, that this bailout “…protects consumers and the climate…that we need to preserve our nuclear fleet and the jobs associated with that,”  is both misinformed and wrong. Consumers are the ones left paying this nuclear ransom. Despite its lower-carbon emissions profile, nuclear power has been demonstrated to be more a detriment than benefit in the climate crisis fight , sapping up money and resources better allocated to truly renewable energy sources, efficiency, energy storage and transmission improvements. These industries already account for 4-5 times the number of jobs in Illinois compared to nuclear.
An enormous and qualitative difference exists between negotiation and appeasement. This proposed bailout crosses that line. Mark Twain once asked, why is physical courage so common, and moral courage so rare? The Governor and Legislature should soon ask themselves that question.
SOURCES: “Exelon’s corporate partner seeks to slow down spinoff train,” Crain’s Chicago Business, June 9, 2021.  “Exelon Illinois Nuclear Fleet Audit — Findings and Recommendations,” Synapse Energy Economics, “ April 14, 2021.  “Illinois: Carbon Mitigation & Political Calculations,” ClearView Energy Partners LLC, June 4, 2021. Article from Bloomberg Law, and conversation with report author Timothy Fox.  “New Energy Bill Pushed By Gov. JB Pritzker Would Save Nuclear Plants — But Cost Customers Nearly $700 Million,” Dave McKinney, Tony Arnold — WBEZ FM Chicago; June 10, 2021.  Numerous references on request