|Illinois may see “dramatic” changes in its energy outlook in 2015, Julie Wernau of the Chicago Tribune wrote Dec. 23, with policy changes opening and closing various doors regarding fracking, nuclear power production and wind energy.
“By year-end, the state could see an oil boom downstate, nuclear plants on the chopping block and forward momentum for a wind-power superhighway to carry wind-generated electricity from Iowa into Illinois,” Wernau reported.
Oil and Gas Drilling
There have been nearly two years of debates and legal battles over horizontal hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — in the state, but Illinois lawmakers have succeeded in codifying regulations for the industry in the hopes that tax revenues will mitigate budgetary woes statewide.
The fracking process, which involves violently fracturing shale in order to extract oil and natural gas, is controversial among environmental activists. But each well could result in $725,508 in taxes over 10 years, assuming an oil price of $85 per barrel. Currently, oil prices are sitting at a much lower rate of $55 per barrel.
It’s unclear exactly how many rigs will pop up in the next year, but it’s likely that Southern Illinois will see at least some new permits issued.
The fate of nuclear power in Illinois is unclear, and Wenau predicts that “All eyes will be on Chicago-based Exelon as it decides what to do about its financially troubled fleet of nuclear power plants.”
The energy giant has struggled to compete at the prices set by wind- and natural gas-generated power.
Exelon is putting pressure on policymakers to reward its ability to produce electricity without carbon emissions, especially as the Environmental Protection Agency has set the ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gases 30% (measured from 2005 levels) by 2030.
Closing even one Exelon plant would put Illinois behind its goals. The company has said that three — half — of its plants may be closed for financial reasons.
That hasn’t stopped Exelon from planning for the future, however; starting early this year, the company will begin to roll out an app to help employees manage their careers. It was developed, a company spokesperson said, in response to employee uncertainty about advancement and promotion pathways.
Wind Power Distribution
2015 will likely see progress on a 500-mile “wind-power superhighway” that would transmit wind-generated electricity from Iowa into Grundy County, IL. The $2 billion line, called the Rock Island Clean Line, was approved last year.
It could lead to a drop in electricity prices across the state, as well as helping Illinois to meet its goal to derive 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Because Illinois has had a deregulated energy market since the late 1990s, consumers can already choose their electricity suppliers and use only sustainably created power if they so desire. Energy deregulation breaks up the monopolies held by utility companies by dividing energy production from energy distribution; Illinois residents can choose from a wide range of energy suppliers, though electricity is delivered through the public utility company regardless of where it comes from.
According to data from Power 2 Switch, only 0.8% of Illinois homeowners currently choose a “completely green” electricity supplier. About 16.4% choose a “partially green” supplier, while 82.8% use traditional suppliers.