Wind, solar development may stall in Ill. as towns move away from big utilities

Source: E&E • Posted: Sunday, June 3, 2012

Illinois communities are moving away from getting their power from big utilities like Commonwealth Edison Co. and Ameren Illinois, a change that is worrying renewable energy developers.

The two large utilities provide most of the funding for the Illinois Power Agency, which procures energy for utilities. And as the utilities lose market share, renewable energy developers are concerned that their projects will not be funded.

Illinois law calls for at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from wind, solar and other renewable resources by 2025.

In 2010, when the first long-term renewable energy contracts were signed, 99 percent of Chicago-area residents used electricity from ComEd. But projections from ComEd last year indicated that number will fall to 35 percent in 2017. The shift will cause its renewable energy budget to take a hit.

Amid the market volatility, Illinois Power Agency may find it difficult to live up to its commitments to alternative energy developers.

“If the monies available from the utilities are shrinking dramatically, that does not bring about a lot of confidence that any commitments made by ComEd or Ameren are going to be lived up to over the long term,” said Mark Pruitt, former Illinois Power Agency director and now an energy consultant.

With less money available, some renewable energy companies are beginning to invest elsewhere (Julie Wernau, Chicago Tribune, May 31). — WW