After issuing warnings it may have to close down half its nuclear fleet, Exelon today introduced a proposal it says would keep them open. It signals the start of what's expected to be a long debate over Illinois' energy policy.
Exelon is one of Illinois' biggest, and most powerful corporations.
"No one from Exelon has ever denied that the company is profitable. It is," says Exelon Corp. Sr. Vice President Joe Dominguez. "What we're talking about is the profitability of units that are persistently losing money and our inability to keep those units open unless we recognize the important attributes that they provide."
By units, he means nuclear plants. Specifically, those in the Quad Cities, Byron and Clinton.
Exelon wants most of big utilities' energy to come from low-carbon sources. Basically, customers would likely pay more for power that doesn't contribute to global warming.
But critics say Exelon is asking for a bailout, and trying to hobble their green competitors like wind and solar power. A recent state report says Illinois would lose $1.8 billion in economic benefits if Exelon were to shut its ailing plants.
Exelon's measure is backed by trade unions, and mayors of towns where the nuclear plants are a major tax base. It comes as environmental groups and other organizations that are members of a group called the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition have proposed a different standard, that would emphasize renewable energy sources and require increased energy efficiency. Advocates of that proposal say it would create jobs, too -- 32,000 of them.