Business groups offer mixed reaction to Illinois governor’s energy proposals

Illinois legislators have a set of principles for what Gov. J.B. Pritzker is looking to do with the state’s energy sector as he vies for 100 percent renewables by 2050. Associations representing various sectors impacted by the ideas have mixed reactions.

The principles range from phasing out so-called “dirty power” to making the state’s transportation sector more electric based. The plan also lays out ways to increase transparency and ethics in the wake of the patronage scandal involving utility ComEd and House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“When it comes to clean energy innovation, Illinois is a leader in the Midwest, and by working together we can build on that progress to protect consumers and the climate,” Pritzker said in a statement. “With these principles as a starting point, we will ensure any legislation on energy includes robust consumer protections as we work to increase transparency and restore the public’s faith in this process.”

Pritzker’s office Friday touted a series of groups that supported the principles.

“We can do this together without raising electricity rates, hiking taxes, or giving Exelon or fossil fuels a bailout,” Colleen Smith with Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition said. “Combating climate change can’t wait, building equity and economic recovery can’t wait.”

Separately, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce applauded the ethics and transparency principles, and said ruling out another Exelon bailout could save energy customers an estimated $414 million.

“A well-crafted plan made up of diverse and reliable sources of energy that considers both environmental, and ratepayer needs is critical to Illinois’ economic future,” Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch said.

But Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President and CEO Mark Denzler was concerned the plan’s effort to keep prices down for residential consumers could push costs onto manufacturers.

“If they’re going to go down the road of re-regulating the marketplace and setting artificial prices that are not based on competition, somebody has to pay those bills,” Denzler said.

Denzler said there should be an all-of-the-above approach to energy to include coal, gas and other affordable options.

“It’s one more thing that manufacturers have to deal with [in Illinois],” Denzler said, noting that energy costs are second to employee costs, which are higher than neighboring states. “We are the largest consumers of energy in Illinois.”

The plan also looks to “Electrify and Decarbonize Illinois’ Transportation Sector” over the next decade.

Mid-West Truckers’ Association Executive Vice President Don Schaefer said there’s a lot of innovation out there, but there are a lot of challenges.

“To say that specifically it’s all going to be done in a specific time frame, that’s hard to say,” Schaefer said. “Is it going in that direction? I think it is.”

Schaefer said there’s a lot of work to do from making battery storage and recharging more efficient to getting the infrastructure ready for such a goal.

Pritzker’s office said they will reconvene working groups to focus on the principles in drafting legislation.

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