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Batavia electric rates could spike 15%

BATAVIA – Electric rates in Batavia could increase as much as 15% if state legislators approve the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act.

That was the message from Batavia Public Works Director Gary Holm, who told aldermen Tuesday that the legislation would impose fees on the downstate coal-fired Prairie State electric plant, of which Batavia is a part owner.

State lawmakers are expected to vote on the comprehensive energy package, designed to promote renewable power sources, in May.

The bill would move Illinois away from electrical generation using fossil fuels by 2030, resulting in the closure of the Prairie State facility, one of just 11 coal plants in the state.

Batavia owns and operates its own electrical utility, selling power to residential, commercial and industrial customers in the community.

The city purchased a share of the Prairie State plant in 2007, becoming one of nine public power agencies with an interest in the facility, which generates power for 227 municipalities and other customers across eight states.

Holm said the act would impose a coal extraction fee, among others, that would help drive up electrical rates in Batavia.

Second Ward Alderman Alan Wolff said he has studied the legislation and agreed with Holm’s conclusion.

“If this goes through the only option we will have is to put it on our taxpayers,” Wolff said.

However, a series of speakers representing public interest groups told the council that the legislation would benefit the city and its ratepayers.

They said that the cost of renewable sources including solar and wind generation continues to drop and that Prairie State can be closed without affecting the reliability of power generation.

“This legislation will help Batavia escape the long-term burden of the Prairie State Energy Campus,” said Kevin Brehm of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Electrical rates in Batavia have remained steady since 2015, although residents saw sharp increases not long after the city bought into the plant in 2007.

Chicago attorney Cary Shepherd, a specialist in environmental law, said closure of the Prairie State plant would allow Batavia to avoid having to buy more electricity that it needs, as it is now required to do under its contract.

Shepherd further argued that the city could refinance the outstanding bond issue it floated to pay for its investment in Prairie State.

J.C. Kibbey with the Natural Resources Defense Council said Prairie State customers are paying far higher than the market price for electricity.

Kibbey said electrical generation from coal power plants nationally has fallen by nearly 50% since 2010. In Illinois, coal-fired electrical generation has dropped by more than two-thirds during that same period of time. Five of the state’s remaining 11 coal plants are slated for closure, he said.

The city of Geneva also has an ownership share in Prairie State.

Kibbey called Prairie State “one of the worst polluters in the nation.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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