Legislative Deal Retains Three Commonwealth Edison Microgrids

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A compromise struck this week retains only three of five Commonwealth Edison microgrids proposed in an energy bill under consideration in Illinois.

Word of the change came Tuesday from the Exelon subsidiary as the utility works under pressure to reach agreement on the Energy Future Jobs Bill (Senate Bill 2814).

The original bill allowed the utility to seek cost recovery for up to $250 million to build five microgrids, including an innovative microgrid cluster in Chicago. The new language decreases the cost cap to $150 million and limits the projects to three microgrids.

November 29 Update: Commonwealth Edison reports that only one microgrid remains in a version of the bill that passed the Illinois General Assembly’s House Energy Committee.

The broad legislation also addresses nuclear power, energy efficiency, net metering, community solar and other energy issues.

Bill supporters hope to see passage by the Illinois General Assembly during a short session that runs from November 29 through December 1. The legislation passed the Illinois House Energy Committee last week in a 9 to 1 vote.

Since then, the bill has undergone change based on feedback from the governor’s office and legislative staff. The Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resource Defense Council and energy, business and community groups also are working on the bill.

Commonwealth Edison microgrids for public purpose

The microgrid proposal faces opposition from critics who say utilities should not be allowed to own and develop the projects in restructured states. Exelon subsidiaries are dealing with similar arguments to utility microgrids in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

ComEd argues in favor of utilities being allowed to develop public purpose microgrids. Such projects ensure power during a grid outage for critical community facilities like airports, police stations and water treatment facilities. (A recent survey of Microgrid Knowledge readers found 79 percent in favor of utility microgrid ownership, although other questions indicated some unease about the utility/microgrid relationship.)

The latest version of the legislation also expands rebates for community solar and commercial and industrial installations. In addition it eliminates a demand based rates provision and maintains a zero emissions standard designed to ward off closure Exelon’s Illinois nuclear plants.

“In the past week, we have heard from groups and individuals representing a broad cross-section of interests. We have listened to what they had to say and have made changes to the bill based on their input,” said Joe Dominguez, Exelon’s executive vice president, governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island).

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.