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Illinois Governor Signs Bill Shutting Coal Plants for Good (1)

Sept. 15, 2021, 4:13 PMUpdated: Sept. 15, 2021, 5:07 PM

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed comprehensive climate legislation Wednesday that will make it the first state in the Midwest to shut down all of the state’s coal-fired energy plants by 2045 while creating a transformed, statewide renewable-energy infrastructure.

The law (S.B. 2408) will provide nearly $700 million in subsidies over five years to Exelon Corp. in the form of carbon mitigation credits to keep two of its Illinois nuclear power stations open while NRG Energy Inc., Vistra Corp., and others will be eligible for more than $500 million in funding over 20 years to convert their coal plants to solar installations.

“Together we are making history today, taking a giant leap forward to mitigate the impacts of climate change, to establish the most aggressive clean energy standards in the Midwest,” Pritzker (D) said at a Wednesday signing ceremony. He said the 958-page law is “one of the most comprehensive and important pieces of legislation that maybe we’ve seen in decades, maybe ever.”

The law also funds a multi-year, multi billion-dollar build out of power plants fueled by renewable sources such as wind and solar that labor groups estimate will create more than 50,000 construction jobs.

The law is largely funded by charges that will appear soon on ratepayer utility bills. Consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board estimates average residential customers will pay an additional $3.51 each month to pay for the law.

AARP Illinois spokeswoman Vikki Ortiz said her group estimates that amount will increase over time and will place a negative burden on older Illinois residents living on fixed incomes.

Other Provisions

The law includes social equity provisions to encourage Black and Hispanic workers to seek employment in the state’s growing green economy, and retraining and educational programs for workers displaced by the coal-plant closings.

Utilities operating in the state will have to follow new ethics standards under the new law. It also creates a new method of calculating ratepayer bills meant to increase transparency while holding utilities more accountable for the way they bill customers.

Additionally, there will be a program that aims to put 1 million electric vehicles on Illinois roads by 2030 in part by offering a $4,000 rebate when consumers buy an electric car as well as dedicating more than $75 million annually for several years to construct charging stations around the state.

“Preserving our existing fleet of nuclear reactors, adopting more clean and renewable energy, and incentivizing sales of electric vehicles are all key components of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and essential to reaching our nation’s climate goals,” U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement released Wednesday.

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Pritzker and legislators, Illinois will keep a number of nuclear power plants online—preserving thousands of good paying jobs—all while showing just what bold state-level action can do to usher in the clean energy future,” Granholm said.

The chief sticking point in negotiations among key stakeholders was the schedule to phase out the coal plants. In the end, negotiators agreed to shut all investor-owned coal plants by 2030 and coal-fired power plants owned by municipalities by 2045. All gas-fired plants must shut by 2045 under the law.

(Updates story with comment from Pritzker and Granholm.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Joyce in Chicago at sjoyce@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

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