Will Exelon nuke-site cleanup cash be there when needed?

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The Chicago area has relied heavily on nuclear power for its electricity for decades, but eventually those plants’ useful lives will end. Billions will be needed to clean them up and return that land to productive use. Will the money be there?

Chicago-based Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear generator and the owner of six Illinois stations, has been socking away just a little over $20 million annually in recent years to clean up all of its U.S. nukes.

At $13.3 billion at the end of 2017, Exelon’s nuke-cleanup funds are collectively short by nearly $6 billion what they will eventually need under reasonable current estimates, which are only likely to rise, according to a recent report by San Francisco-based investment consultant Callan Associates.

On average, Exelon’s nuke licenses don’t expire for 22 years, giving the company time to let investment returns help close the gap. But with a shortfall topping all other U.S. nuclear operators as of the end of 2016, Exelon’s slight annual contribution raises questions about whether it’s investing enough to ensure those plant sites are cleaned up in a timely manner after they close.

Under state deregulation laws, ​ including Illinois’, that occurred in the 1990s, Exelon is solely responsible for amassing the funds needed to restore the plant sites. For years, ratepayers paid into those funds, but they no longer have to.

“There’s no ability to go to ratepayers to charge them for the plants,” says Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center and a longtime critic of Exelon’s funding approach. “There’s a real risk Exelon or its successors will leave taxpayers holding the bag.”

Of course, in Illinois at least, ratepayers are subsidizing Exelon’s nukes in other ways. The Future Energy Jobs Act, signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2016, imposes a surcharge on electric bills throughout the state to funnel $235 million a year to Exelon, which had threatened otherwise to shutter two money-losing stations.

So, like a prudent parent saving for their kids’ college, will Exelon start salting more away? Doesn’t sound like it.

In a statement, the company says it “is fully prepared to meet all of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decommissioning funding requirements for the safe, responsible shutdown and decommissioning of our Illinois nuclear plants, with the earliest possible retirement date still many years away.”

The company won’t comment on whether it will begin to put more cash into the funds now that it’s getting subsidies. New York ratepayers also are paying extra to Exelon to keep plants there open.

The NRC’s funding requirements don’t really set a realistic expectation, however. The agency permits nuke operators to wait 50 years to fully reclaim sites after ensuring spent fuel is stored properly. And owners can reflect that assumption in their funding plans.

For example, Oyster Creek in New Jersey is Exelon’s one operating nuke for which it has a firm closing date. And it’s assuming—for now, at least—it will take the full 50 years to reclaim the site.

How many communities will be OK with keeping formerly productive land unusable for that long? With 11 reactors, Illinois has the most nukes in the U.S. The next closest is Pennsylvania, with nine. Exelon is the dominant generator in both states.

Like Illinois’ decades-in-the-making pension time bomb, which in recent years exploded in the faces of state lawmakers and two governors, adequate funding for nuke-site reclamation can be easily ignored. Until it can’t.

Exelon sidestepped a big headache over inadequate funding when the state agreed to bail out its Clinton and Quad Cities plants, which the company had begun the process of closing. Well short of the needed money in the funds supporting the two stations, Exelon was staring down having to set aside hundreds of millions to satisfy regulators.

The still-running bull market has helped the company on this score. Its nuke-cleanup funds collectively are valued at $13.3 billion, the company says, up 20 percent in a single year from $11.1 billion at the end of 2016.

But, of course, what goes up goes down. During the 2009 market crash, funds at four Illinois nuclear sites shrank so much that the NRC pressed Exelon to justify why it shouldn’t pump more cash in. Ultimately, the company was able to satisfy the regulator.

Callan Associates estimates Exelon’s funds would need $19 billion in total if cleanup were to start now. That’s a rough estimate based on the average cost per kilowatt of plant capacity that all U.S. investor-owned nuclear operators have projected to date.

Exelon’s most recent official estimate with the NRC is much lower, at $13.2 billion. But that’s in large part due to a relatively low-cost formula the NRC allows operators to use in lieu of a site-specific plan needed when closure grows nearer. Oyster Creek is the only one of Exelon’s 23 reactors that has a site-specific plan.

For peers that have prepared more such plans, estimated costs are much higher than Exelon’s. For example, Entergy of New Orleans has pegged its cleanup costs at $1,053 per kilowatt, 80 percent higher than Exelon’s $589 per kilowatt. Newark, N.J.-based Public Service Enterprise Group’s estimated cost is $924 per kilowatt. And Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy’s is $1,054 per kilowatt.

At the midpoint of those three companies’ estimates—$989 per kilowatt—Exelon’s total costs would be $22.2 billion.

In a separate statement, Exelon calls Callan’s report “flawed.” “It assumes the cost to decommission a nuclear facility should be similar across all operators and nuclear units,” the company says.

Exelon asserts that several factors come into play, including the planned cleanup method, when the plants are set to retire and ownership stake in the units.

On one of those, the plants’ longevity, at least one of Exelon’s peers is in a similar position. New Jersey’s PSEG has 23 years of licensed usage remaining on average versus Exelon’s 22. Yet PSEG’s estimated reclamation cost is 58 percent higher.

PSEG’s fund shortfall at the end of 2016 was $1.8 billion compared with Exelon’s $8 billion at the same time, according to Callan. So how much did PSEG contribute to its funds in that year, according to the report? Nothing.

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Will Exelon nuke-site cleanup cash be there when needed?

Rauner celebrates anniversary of Future Energy Jobs Act

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Rauner celebrates anniversary of Future Energy Jobs Act


Posted:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 6:53 PM EST
Updated:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 6:53 PM EST




CLINTON, Ill (WAND)- Governor Bruce Rauner was in Clinton to celebrate the anniversary of signing the Future Energy Jobs Act which saved the plant from closing. 

“This is a positive story and its thanks to you the workers to make that bill, and that bill 13 months ago was not a sure thing, and I have to give a lot of credit to Governor Rauner.” said Representative Bill Mitchell, R-Decatur. 

Governor Rauner spoke to a room full of workers from the Clinton Exelon power plant to highlight the signing of the bill. 

“I want to say thank you, thank you so much for your great work, today we are celebrating a birth, it’s a new birth for this facility.” Governor Rauner said to the crowd. 

Exelon had threatened to close its two Illinois plants if legislation was not passed which would have cost 700 jobs in Clinton. 

“We know how far and how wide and how deep this plants economic impact is to Central Illinois.” said Senator Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet. 

“This bill lays the foundation for even stronger economic growth even more jobs creation all across Illinois both here in Central Illinois as well as around the state because we now have an Eco-system of energy innovation that this bill helps create both energy efficiency other kinds of renewable energy firms while supporting nuclear and every kind of energy” added Governor Rauner. 

The bill passed with bipartisan support.


Rauner celebrates anniversary of Future Energy Jobs Act

Average ComEd bills to rise about $1 per month in January

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State regulators on Wednesday blessed a $96 million delivery rate hike for ComEd that will add about a dollar to the average household’s monthly electric bill beginning in January, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.

The increase is the latest since ComEd won approval of a 2011 law requiring the Illinois Commerce Commission to follow a strict formula that gives the regulators little leeway to challenge utility requests, Crain’s said. The so-called smart-grid law, enacted over then-Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto, authorized $2.6 billion in power-grid improvements and the installation of smart meters.

Combined with past increases, ComEd will have hiked delivery rates by $830 million since the 2011 law was passed, Crain’s reported. That’s about an $11 increase in the average household’s monthly bill. But overall, electric bills have been relatively steady due to falling energy prices, which combined with the cost of delivery comprise a total electric bill.

But Crain’s reports the energy side of the bill is starting to rise, too. Households are now paying about $2 extra per month to subsidize two Illinois nuclear plants owned by ComEd parent Exelon. That’s under the Future Energy Jobs Act, signed into law last year by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Average ComEd bills to rise about $1 per month in January

One year later, Illinois energy jobs law bearing fruit

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PEORIA — As many as 400 households in a Tazewell County township will soon run on renewable energy thanks to a year-old law crafted to turn 25 percent of the state’s power green by 2025.

The array of solar panels that could go up in Fondulac Township as soon as 2019 — with the appropriate blessings from governmental bodies such as the Tazewell County Zoning Board — would be the first community solar project in the state, said township supervisor Rick Swan.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA),” Swan said at a press conference Wednesday that marked the one year anniversary of the legislation’s enactment. “This is ultimately a win-win situation for us.”

Among the many provisions of the act is a range of tax credit incentives for big and small business owners, as well as individuals interested in residential renewable power production or energy efficiency.

Those incentives also foster public-private partnerships by creating enough stability in the renewable energy marketplace to attract outside investors for projects that non-profit entities can’t individually afford.

“They’re now economically viable. … Any group or any community in Illinois can take advantage of this,” said State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, who helped craft and pass the legislation. “This is good for our economy and for our future generations.”

And an expected onslaught of renewable energy development will create construction, engineering and other positions that directly or indirectly support new installations.

That’s already happened at Ruyle Mechanical Services in Peoria, where Kiersten Sheets devotes her hours to solar projects as the company’s energy solutions implementer.

“Successful implementation of the Future Energy Jobs Act undoubtedly means more jobs for Illinois citizens,” Sheets said. “As a result, we will be able to expand payroll and put even more people to work.”

One rooftop solar array requires about 150 man hours of work, according to Tim Sprout, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“These provide good head of household jobs with benefits,” Sprout said. “We see a good future, and we are very excited for the job opportunities.”

 

Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or mbuedel@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twtter @JournoBuedel.

 

One year later, Illinois energy jobs law bearing fruit

One year later, Illinois energy jobs law bearing fruit

http://ift.tt/2k2Q20P


 

PEORIA — As many as 400 households in a Tazewell County township will soon run on renewable energy thanks to a year-old law crafted to turn 25 percent of the state’s power green by 2025.

The array of solar panels that could go up in Fondulac Township as soon as 2019 — with the appropriate blessings from governmental bodies such as the Tazewell County Zoning Board — would be the first community solar project in the state, said township supervisor Rick Swan.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA),” Swan said at a press conference Wednesday that marked the one year anniversary of the legislation’s enactment. “This is ultimately a win-win situation for us.”

Among the many provisions of the act is a range of tax credit incentives for big and small business owners, as well as individuals interested in residential renewable power production or energy efficiency.

Those incentives also foster public-private partnerships by creating enough stability in the renewable energy marketplace to attract outside investors for projects that non-profit entities can’t individually afford.

“They’re now economically viable. … Any group or any community in Illinois can take advantage of this,” said State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, who helped craft and pass the legislation. “This is good for our economy and for our future generations.”

And an expected onslaught of renewable energy development will create construction, engineering and other positions that directly or indirectly support new installations.

That’s already happened at Ruyle Mechanical Services in Peoria, where Kiersten Sheets devotes her hours to solar projects as the company’s energy solutions implementer.

“Successful implementation of the Future Energy Jobs Act undoubtedly means more jobs for Illinois citizens,” Sheets said. “As a result, we will be able to expand payroll and put even more people to work.”

One rooftop solar array requires about 150 man hours of work, according to Tim Sprout, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“These provide good head of household jobs with benefits,” Sprout said. “We see a good future, and we are very excited for the job opportunities.”

 

Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or mbuedel@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twtter @JournoBuedel.

 

One year later, Illinois energy jobs law bearing fruit

One year later, Illinois energy jobs law bearing fruit

http://ift.tt/2k2Q20P


 

PEORIA — As many as 400 households in a Tazewell County township will soon run on renewable energy thanks to a year-old law crafted to turn 25 percent of the state’s power green by 2025.

The array of solar panels that could go up in Fondulac Township as soon as 2019 — with the appropriate blessings from governmental bodies such as the Tazewell County Zoning Board — would be the first community solar project in the state, said township supervisor Rick Swan.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA),” Swan said at a press conference Wednesday that marked the one year anniversary of the legislation’s enactment. “This is ultimately a win-win situation for us.”

Among the many provisions of the act is a range of tax credit incentives for big and small business owners, as well as individuals interested in residential renewable power production or energy efficiency.

Those incentives also foster public-private partnerships by creating enough stability in the renewable energy marketplace to attract outside investors for projects that non-profit entities can’t individually afford.

“They’re now economically viable. … Any group or any community in Illinois can take advantage of this,” said State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, who helped craft and pass the legislation. “This is good for our economy and for our future generations.”

And an expected onslaught of renewable energy development will create construction, engineering and other positions that directly or indirectly support new installations.

That’s already happened at Ruyle Mechanical Services in Peoria, where Kiersten Sheets devotes her hours to solar projects as the company’s energy solutions implementer.

“Successful implementation of the Future Energy Jobs Act undoubtedly means more jobs for Illinois citizens,” Sheets said. “As a result, we will be able to expand payroll and put even more people to work.”

One rooftop solar array requires about 150 man hours of work, according to Tim Sprout, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“These provide good head of household jobs with benefits,” Sprout said. “We see a good future, and we are very excited for the job opportunities.”

 

Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or mbuedel@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twtter @JournoBuedel.

 

One year later, Illinois energy jobs law bearing fruit

New Exelon Communications Manager Discusses Exelon Year After Legislation

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The new Communications Manager at the Clinton Power Station presented the Clinton Rotary Club with an update on how things are going since the signing of legislation about a year ago.


 


Gabe Goldsmith has been the communications manager for the station for about a month now. He says it has been a lot to take in but is excited about the opportunity.


 


At the Tuesday afternoon Rotary meeting, he calls the plant’s mentality, full speed ahead.


 



 


Because the plant is running at near capacity, Goldsmith indicates the upcoming outage in the spring is going to bring the plant up to full capacity.


 



 


Earlier in the month, the power station completed an emergency preparedness drill. Goldsmith says they passed that with flying colors.


 



 


Exelon has a great relationship with the Clinton and DeWitt County community and Goldsmith says they will continue to maintain those relationships. 


 



 


Goldsmith indicates since the passage of the energy legislation last year, the plant has re-hired or hired 150-plus employees to positions that were reduced because of the anticipated closure. 

New Exelon Communications Manager Discusses Exelon Year After Legislation