Efficiency Programs Are Pricey for Illinois Industrial Companies

Guess who gets zapped by Springfield’s latest energy-efficiency plan

Crain’s Chicago Business, November 5, 2016

Who knew cutting electricity usage could cost so much?

The state’s large industrial and manufacturing companies would see significant increases in their electric bills to help bankroll a dramatic expansion of energy-efficiency programs run by Commonwealth Edison and downstate utility Ameren Illinois as part of a wide-ranging draft energy bill circulating in Springfield.

Over the next 13 years, the efficiency charges alone would cause electricity costs for the average Illinois industrial user (as defined by the U.S. Energy Information Administration) to rise $8,271 in 2020, scaling up dramatically to an increase of $43,871 by 2030, according to an analysis by Argonne National Laboratory.

For a state whose business climate is a persistent source of concern and debate as some manufacturers consider relocating to cheaper locales, the approach raises questions.

In the abstract, no one opposes more-efficient use of electricity. It saves money and helps the environment, and a 2007 Illinois law requires utilities to administer efficiency programs to save gradually increasing amounts of electricity. That led in the early stages to the sale of cheap compact fluorescent light bulbs subsidized by ComEd, courtesy of the ratepayer-financed efficiency program.

But ComEd executives have said they’ve already achieved the “easy” efficiency gains from simple household changes in behavior. To achieve the audacious goals called for by groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (the bill requires that the 800,000 megawatt-hours saved by the ComEd program so far increase over the next decade-plus to 20 million megawatt-hours) will mean more aggressive action by large commercial users, the green lobby says.

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