Friday, March 21, 2014

Quinn's Wind War & Durbin's Dirty Coal Fight

How much do Illinois ratepayers have to pay for “clean” energy?  It’s kind of like that old quote attributed to former Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”  Deregulation of the energy market was to create an “open” and “competitive” market.   Unfortunately, some politicians think it is there job to tweak markets and direct the economy in proper directions.  Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand of Capitalism” can be trusted.  “Wiser” men like Governors and US Senators believe they know better what is needed by the public than consumer choice.

Politicians decided to play favoritism with pet projects, picking winners and losers because consumers cannot be trusted to make the best choice when buying electrons.  Lobbyist sold Springfield leaders with a Renewable Portfolio Standard because we need to buy “clean” wind energy and the good old boys in the energy club supposedly won’t let wind into the market.   Even with a government subsidy in the Production Tax Credit, wind energy wanted more.  It wasn’t enough.  A “bill mill” called the Council of State Governments helped the legislature and gave them a Renewable Portfolio Standard.  

That wasn’t enough.  Wind companies wanted more.  Wind companies claimed they “needed” more.  Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn was more than happy to oblige.  Weird how the former President of the Citezens Utility Board thought Illinois consumers weren’t paying enough and needed to pay more for electricity.  He pressured the Illinois Power Agency to go against the best interest of the Illinois ratepayers and sign 20 year Power Purchasing Agreement well above market price for electricity.  The director of the Illinois Power Agency protested, but acquiesced to the governor.  Then in pure Illinois governmental practice, Governor Quinn fired the director. 

Is it a coincidence Chicago is the home office to many wind energy companies?  Pay to play is almost the state’s motto.  It should be on the license plates.

Senator Durbin is another who thinks Illinois consumers are not paying enough for his brand of “clean” energy.  FutureGen, a proposed prototype “clean” coal generation station, is Durbin’s baby pet project.  He lobbied to get this “modern” coal plant in Illinois.    Like most projects where the federal government is paying a good portion of the bill, costs got out of control.  Once it was realized to be too expensive, rather than scrapping the idea completely, someone proposed an old Ameren coal plant be remodeled to burn coal and oxygen with the carbon dioxide pipelined 30 miles and pumped into the ground.  FutureGen 1.0 was dead before it was born and FutureGen 2.0 was conceived.

Unfortunately FutureGen 2.0 is still too expensive and still cannot compete.  Bummer.  Senator Durbin’s friends lobbied to get Illinois ratepayers to pay more for the “special” energy from FutureGen 2.0.  Exelon backed out of the FutureGen Alliance fought the FutureGen 2.0 pricing at the ICC.  Exelon and the Illinois Competitive Energy Alliance (10 Alternate energy retail suppliers) has now appealed the pricing in the federal appellate court.  Looks Like Senator Durbin’s FutureGen 2.0 will tied up in courts for a while longer. 

Last year Senator Durbin had the gall to call Exelon’s challenge to FutureGen 2.0’s pricing a “heavy-handed corporate betrayal”.  When a corporation leaves and “alliance” to support deregulation, the second most powerful US Senator calls it a “betrayal”.  The only ones supporting an actual free and open market in Illinois is a nuclear corporation, alternative retail suppliers, and THE PUBLIC WHO WANT TO PAY LESS FOR ELECTRICITY. 

Seems to me, Exelon is the best friend Illinois consumers have right now.  They’ve been a better friend to ratepayers than the Citizen Utility Board and actually opposed unjustified politically friendly high pricing.   According to a Crain’s Chicago Business article from a year ago, Senator Durbin went on to say;
Exelon, he (Senator Durbin) said, “was an intimate party to our state's strategy to negotiate this historic energy research project and the 2,000 jobs it will bring to our state. Exelon sent its smiling representatives to press conferences lauding the virtues of FutureGen.”

Maybe Exelon realized this “clean” coal project was going nowhere as politicians pick a “winner” with a reward of higher energy prices.  Here’s the real joke about Senator Durbin’s “clean” coal pilot project.  Just last month FutureGen 2.0 applied to the ICC for the permit the construct of the pipeline under docket 14-0177.   FutureGen Alliance has also asked the ICC for a Protective Order to keep the Updated Ratepayer Impact Analysis Report (the “Cost” Report).  Only in Illinois would a consortium and the federal government come together and ask a judge to keep a ratepayer cost report sealed and confidential. 

Perhaps it is not surprising Governor Quinn supports the Rock Island Clean Line.  Apparently Illinois consumers haven’t paid enough to “clean” energy companies.  Another 3,500 megawatts of wind energy imported from Iowa and extra profit to a “clean” powerline company won’t be enough to satisfy Governor Quinn’s friends in the Chicago based wind energy industry.  Senator Durbin and Governor Quinn fail to understand the James Carville Doctrine. 

“It’s the economy, stupid.”  

An open market should not include Governors and Senators picking “winners” at the expense to consumers.   Illinois does not need “clean” coal.  Illinois does not need a Renewable Portfolio Standard.  Illinois does not need the Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) or the Grain Belt Expense (GBE) to import wind energy from Iowa or Kansas.  Illinois consumers should be fighting this Wind War or a “Clean” War with the men elected to represent us, but if need be, we will bring this fight to the Governor’s mansion and the US Senate.   

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