Even so, the federal legislation still does provide a nugget of good news for customers of Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison, which relies heavily on nuclear power to serve its customers. When the Manchin-Schumer measure is enacted, federal taxpayers will contribute to launching more clean energy projects in Illinois. That will help defray the costs built into Illinois’ landmark Climate & Equitable Jobs Act, a law adopted last year that raised electricity rates across the state to finance wind and solar development, promote equity in energy investment and push other initiatives aimed at eliminating carbon-emitting power-generation sources.
As Daniels explained in his analysis, the federal proposal would also provide long-term tax credits for development of solar and wind power. That would make such new projects in Illinois cheaper to build and would allow the ratepayer subsidies now paid to help finance those projects to go farther. Previously, Congress had only extended existing credits for new renewable power projects for short periods, and usually only as they were about to expire. The industry complained that it’s difficult to plan and obtain financing when there’s so much uncertainty about tax provisions that can account for a third of a project’s costs. So this new provision should provide the stability needed to make wind, solar and potentially other types of green power a much larger slice of Illinois’ energy mix.
With fully functional and well-run nuclear power plants as the backbone of Illinois’ electrical infrastructure, plus the prospect of adding wind, solar and even geothermal plants to the picture, Illinois can sidestep the brownouts and extended grid failures that have plagued states such as Texas and California. Safe, reliable and carbon-neutral electricity can help keep Illinois competitive—and keep the lights on.