We have been critical of some of Illinois’ legislative policies which negatively impact business and industry, particularly when compared to Iowa’s pro-growth legislative record. There is, however, one Illinois policy which stands out compared to Iowa. In September of 2021, Illinois lawmakers passed a watershed clean energy law: The Climate & Equitable Jobs Act, which […]
Already a subscriber? Log in
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 52 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
We have been critical of some of Illinois’ legislative policies which negatively impact business and industry, particularly when compared to Iowa’s pro-growth legislative record. There is, however, one Illinois policy which stands out compared to Iowa. In September of 2021, Illinois lawmakers passed a watershed clean energy law: The Climate & Equitable Jobs Act, which established the state as a leader for its efforts to decarbonize. One of the key provisions in the bill was a commitment to keep its existing nuclear power fleet online. Illinois is the leading state in the U.S. for nuclear power production. In Illinois there are 11 operating commercial nuclear power reactors at six sites, generating about 50% of the state’s electricity. Among them is Constellation Energy Corp.’s Quad Cities Generating Station in Cordova. This important piece of legislation doesn’t get the recognition that it should because it won’t be fully realized because ratepayers (i.e., energy users) won’t experience a significant loss of baseload energy due to the closure of the nuclear power plants. This thoughtful legislation preserves Illinois’ nuclear fleet for the long-term; something that Iowa legislative leaders failed to do. Iowa’s only nuclear power plant, the Duane Arnold Energy Center, was left to go offline in 2020 because the state failed to incentivize the primary owner, NextEra Energy, to preserve it. Normally, we don’t advocate for government intervention with business and industry, but states have been meddling with energy incentives for decades. Additionally, the long-term health of a state’s electrical generation capabilities along with climate change warranted the state’s help to save the nuclear power generation stations. Then there are hundreds of well-paying jobs and the considerable economic impact they have for regions. The shortsightedness of not saving Duane Arnold might not be felt this summer or next year, but its loss will be felt at some point in the future. It is immensely cheaper and quicker to preserve and improve an existing nuclear plant or fleet of plants than it is to build a new nuclear plant from scratch due to regulatory burdens. Consider that, for the first time in decades, a new nuclear power plant built from scratch came online this summer in Georgia, but the cost of the new plant could discourage utilities from pursuing new nuclear facilities as a path to a carbon-free future. According to the Associated Press, Georgia Power Co. announced earlier this summer that Unit 3 at Plant Vogtle, southeast of Augusta, has completed testing and is now in commercial operation, seven years late and $17 billion over budget. At its full output of 1,100 megawatts of electricity, Unit 3 can power 500,000 homes and businesses. “This hadn’t been done in this country from start to finish in some 30-plus years,” Chris Womack, CEO of Atlanta-based Southern Co., said in an AP interview. “So to do this, to get this done, to get this done right, is a wonderful accomplishment for our company, for the state and for the customers here in Georgia.” What Illinois leaders have done is also a wonderful accomplishment by preserving its nuclear fleet and its clean baseload energy. Iowa will be sorry that it failed to do something similar.