A Publication of WTVP

On December 7, 2016, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Future Energy Jobs Bill (Senate Bill 2814) into law. This broad legislative package was primarily crafted to provide a dedicated revenue stream to help keep two zero-carbon nuclear generation plants operational. It also includes provisions to bolster the state’s energy efficiency programs and expand utilization of wind and solar in Illinois’ energy supply portfolio.

We had some serious initial concerns when this bill was first introduced. Our primary focus was on ensuring that our customers would not be asked to pay for this legislation without receiving the benefits. After months of intense negotiations, what was once a proposed $2-per-month bill increase is projected to result in a slight decrease in residential customer rates over the life of the plan. The bill also includes rate cap provisions to protect business customers.

Why were we ultimately supportive of this legislation? In addition to the important rate cap protections, the bill includes a provision enabling Ameren Illinois to continue implementing our smart grid plan through 2022. Under this plan, we are investing in significant enhancements to improve reliability by installing storm-resilient utility poles and technology to detect and reduce the frequency of power outages. To date, these enhancements have resulted in an overall 17-percent increase in reliability and are helping our customers realize an estimated $47 million each year in savings.

In addition, along with preserving more than 4,000 high-wage jobs, keeping the nuclear plants open will ensure that the Clinton, Illinois plant will continue to bid its nuclear energy into the capacity auction that sets supply prices for Ameren Illinois customers. We are confident that this will help our customers save on the supply portion of their energy bills.

Regarding energy efficiency, we committed to an increase in spending on our energy efficiency programs and to reduce residential energy usage up to 13 percent by 2025. In the last nine years, Ameren Illinois’ programs have helped customers reduce their energy usage by nearly 12 million megawatt-hours, saving them approximately $781 million. Under this new legislation, our large industrial customers (those with loads greater than 10 MW) no longer have to pay into the energy efficiency fund and will not participate in our programs. This is a significant cost-reduction benefit for the larger business and high energy users.

No bill is perfect, and not every stakeholder will be fully satisfied. In the end, the opportunity to work with all parties to stabilize employment, bolster energy efficiency programs and continue improving system reliability made this legislation worthy of our support. iBi

Richard J. Mark is president of Ameren Illinois.