Time is running out for Exelon’s Byron and Dresden nuclear plants as Illinois Senate passes major energy bill

Diving brief:

  • The Illinois Senate voted early Wednesday morning to approve a sweeping energy bill that would decarbonize the power grid of one of the largest states in the country by 2050.
  • Senate Bill 18 is providing hundreds of millions in grants to keep the state’s nuclear power sector open as Exelon prepares to shut down its Byron nuclear power plant on September 13.
  • But the legislation, which has yet to pass the House, faces 11th-hour hurdles: Gov. JB Pritzker, D, raises objections to a key part of the plan dealing with the state’s big coal plant of the prairies.

Overview of the dive:

The Illinois Senate Clean Energy Program provides over $600 million in grants for renewable energy initiatives, and nearly $700 million over five years for the state’s struggling nuclear power sector.

However, the Illinois governor has raised objections to a key part of the deal, which would require the closure of the Prairie State Coal Plant, Illinois’ largest carbon-emitting power plant and one of the largest in the country. by 2045.

Pritzker is all for the shutdown, but he wants the plant also to be forced to cut emissions before it closes, according to a tweet from the governor’s office shortly after the Senate bill passed.

The governor’s objections raise the prospect of legislative negotiations going all the way, with around 10 days or less for a final bill to pass before Exelon moves forward with its shutdown plans. .

“The clock is our enemy and there is still a long way to go,” said Generation Atomic policy manager James Hopf. “They must move with alacrity.”

Exelon, which has six nuclear power plants in the state, announced plans to close its Byron plant on September 13 unless the bill passes.

But the real deadline is even tighter than that, with legislation having to be approved by September 13 in order to keep the plant open, Exelon noted in a statement.

Exelon is preparing to withdraw two of its nuclear plants from Illinois, Byron and Dresden, a major company, a spokesman said. However, the company has “established exit ramps” that will allow for contingencies for operations to continue if the legislation is passed “with enough time for us to safely refuel factories,” a spokesperson said. ‘Exelon in an email.

“To be clear, Byron will run out of fuel and will permanently close on September 13 unless a law is passed,” the spokesperson said. “We have been clear that we cannot supply Byron on September 13 or Dresden in November unless there are policy changes.”

Jack Darin, head of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter, also acknowledged the tightness of the deadline, but said it was important that the final bill requires the Prairie State Coal Plant to also reduce emissions before its closing.

“That’s what really needs to be fixed – we’re optimistic it can be done,” Darin said. “We are at the moment of decision. We have a governor leading climate change. We need the Illinois House to seize the moment.”

Always, David Colataexecutive director of the Citizens Utility Board in Illinois, expressed concern about the potential ramifications of the state’s decarbonization plans if Exelon were forced to begin shutting down its nuclear plants.

Nuclear power plants currently produce more than 50% of Illinois’ electrical power.

“I think the big deadline here is when Byron closes,” Kolata said. “It’s a huge part of the overall structure here. It will be very difficult for Illinois to meet our climate goals if the nuclear plants shut down prematurely and unnecessarily.”

Comments are closed.