Byron, United States: Exelon Byron nuclear power plants are operating at full capacity on May 14, 2007 in Byron, Illinois. (Photo should be read by JEFF HAYNES / AFP via Getty Images)

Jeff Haynes AFP | Getty Images

Nuclear energy pays in times of fluctuations in energy prices.

In September, Illinois lawmakers passed the Clean Energy Act, which recognized the state as a leader for its decarbonisation efforts. One of the key provisions of the law was the obligation to maintain the existing nuclear power park online, even if the stations are not profitable.

Nuclear reactors produce energy without greenhouse gas emissions, but they often cannot compete when other energy sources, such as natural gas and renewable sources, become really cheap. But Illinois needed to keep its nuclear fleet online to achieve its clean energy goals.

Now, less than a year later, utility customers in the northern state and around Chicago are saving an average of $ 237 a year on their electricity bills because of the legislation, according to state regulators.

In late April, the Illinois utility company Commonwealth Edison filed a lawsuit with the Illinois Commerce Commission, the local regulatory agency, which said it would provide a loan of 3,087 cents per kilowatt-hour from June 1 to May 31, 2023.

The exact amount of the loan varies depending on how much energy the customer uses, but the average loan is $ 19.71 per month, or an average of $ 237 per year, according to the Illinois Trade Commission.

The Illinois Clean Energy Act agreed to keep nuclear power plants open when they lose money, but it also limited the amount of money a nuclear power plant owner, Constellation Energy, can earn when energy prices rise. (In February, Exelon transferred part of its business to Constellation Energy.)

Energy prices have risen in part due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent global efforts to abandon Russian energy pipelines.

“The Climate and Equal Jobs Act, passed last year, works exactly as intended, supporting these critical zero-carbon energy facilities during periods of historically low prices while protecting consumers when energy prices rise as they have recently caused unfortunate global events, “Constellation Energy told CNBC in a written statement Wednesday.

“To date, Illinois consumers have not paid a penny for nuclear power plants in accordance with the law, and instead will receive substantial credit,” – said in Constellation Energy.

“I am proud that our drive to achieve carbon-free energy by 2045 is already saving consumers just a few months after the law was passed,” said Governor J. B. Pritzker in a written statement at the time.

The downside to Illinois law is that if energy prices fall again and the existing Illinois nuclear fleet becomes uneconomical, Illinois will pay to keep the stations open so the state can continue to meet its decarbonisation targets.

But right now, when energy prices are high, Illinois ComEd’s energy customers are getting their money back.

The term is sharp because high inflation in the United States is squeezing consumers.

“For families struggling with high inflation, it’s a good help. What could have been a nuclear subsidy was a reasonable deal of $ 1 billion for Illinois consumers,” said the Illinois Coalition of Clean Jobs (ICJC), a joint group. Illinois, said in a written statement. “The deal shows the wisdom of Illinois’ approach to tackling the climate crisis and creating a well-paid, fair and clean energy, saving money for consumers.”

The loan will not affect all utility customers in Illinois. Customers served by Ameren’s utilities, primarily in central and southern Illinois, will not receive energy credit because Ameren has been exempt from the law because it serves fewer than 3 million customers.

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