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Report: Power Supply Sufficient, No Bailout Needed

Dynegy Energy has asked for a $400 million bailout, saying that without it, thousands of local jobs will be lost. (
Dynegy Energy has asked for a $400 million bailout, saying that without it, thousands of local jobs will be lost. (
March 6, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A new state report says Illinois has plenty of power, and environmental advocates say that means there's few reasons to bail out coal plants belonging to Dynegy.

The company asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to relax some environmental protections that have been in place for years, and give them $400 million.

The commission conducted a study and made no recommendations, but says there is more than enough power in Illinois to keep the lights on and then some.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says it shows the best option for utility consumers, public health and the environment is for Illinois policymakers to reject costly coal-plant bailouts.

"Energy efficiency is moving to electricity sales and demand going flat or declining in Illinois," he says. "Wind power and solar-energy storage are coming into the market. There's low-priced natural gas. The coal plants simply are not economically competitive."

Dynegy says under the status quo, the viability of existing coal- and natural gas-fueled plants that are fully environmentally compliant is threatened, and so are thousands of local jobs that support economic viability in Illinois.

Learner says the focus in the state should be on renewables, such as wind energy, and not on old, polluting coal plants. He says what we're seeing in the electricity market can be likened to what wireless technology did to telecommunications. Cell phones now dominate the marketplace, and even though every home used to have a land line, now only about a third of them do.

"Dynegy bought its coal plants in Central/Southern Illinois for almost nothing years ago," he adds. "They've been running these old coal plants, and they're not putting much money in for environmental improvements, and those plants are simply not economic in the competitive marketplace."

Environmental groups contend coal-plant bailouts will stifle the move towards clean energy and will exacerbate the number of respiratory ailments such as asthma and COPD. They say increasing wind and solar power will provide health benefits for state residents and create jobs.

The governor's office has requested that the ICC continue studying the issue and produce an updated report in early April.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL