ILLINOIS — Exelon will shutter two of its six nuclear power generation facilities in Illinois in 2021.
The company announced its Byron facility would cease operation in September 2021 and its Dresden facility will shut down in November 2021.
“Although we know in our heads that shutting down the uneconomic Illinois plants is necessary to preserve even more jobs elsewhere, our hearts ache today for the thousands of talented women and men that have served Illinois families for more than a generation and will lose their jobs because of poorly conceived energy policies,” said Christopher Crane, president and CEO of Exelon. “But we are only about a year away from shutdown and we need to give our people, the host communities, and regulators time to prepare.”
The Dresden and Byron facilities employ more than 1,500 full-time employees and 2,000 supplemental workers during refueling outages. The two plants, which supply about 30 percent of the state’s carbon-free energy, pay nearly $63 million in taxes each year, according to the company.
The two closures are not related to the lack of action by the Illinois Legislature, Exelon said in a new release, but the company said two more facilities, in Braidwood and LaSalle, are now considered “high risk” because of the state’s hesitance to construct a local wholesale energy market for the plants to sell their energy on.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled several green energy initiatives last week, of which Exelon would not have received what it said it needs to keep the plants open.
“We agree with Governor Pritzker that policy reform is urgently needed to address the climate crisis and advance Illinois’ clean energy economy, and we support the objectives of the Governor’s recent energy principles,” Crane said. “That’s separate from today’s announcement to retire these two zero-carbon nuclear plants, which was not a decision made lightly and is one that has been in the works for some time.”
Both closures come two decades earlier than the scheduled lifespan of the facilities, the closure of the two plants is expected to impact state and local tax revenue.
A 2018 report on the nation’s most highly-taxed properties found Byron’s nuclear plant paid $36.5 million in property taxes in 2017. That’s more than all but 20 other properties in America and more than Willis Tower in Chicago and Disneyland in California.
“Dresden plays a vital role in our region’s economy, providing more than 800 well-paying jobs and more than $24 million in property taxes annually,” state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Ottawa, said. “We must do everything we can to ensure that this facility continues to operate to preserve jobs for the hundreds of people employed by this facility and the many local businesses they support in their communities.”
State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, chairman of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, criticized the timing of the announcement.
“It’s truly unfortunate that Exelon has announced two plant closures during the middle of a pandemic,” he said in a statement. “The negative economic impact of these closures cannot be understated.”
Dresden and Byron were facing revenue shortfalls, Exelon said, due to falling energy prices, but others contend the company is using the closures as leverage for another state bailout.
“Exelon’s threats underline the importance of Gov. Pritzker’s call for Exelon to provide certified costs in an independent financial report before securing new subsidies,” said Abe Scarr, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group. “Any additional support for Exelon’s aging, expensive power plants must come within a comprehensive plan to transition Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy, including firm closure dates for nuclear power plants.”
The Center Square – Cole Lauterbach
Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois and Arizona government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Central Illinois and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
Cover Photo: Bobak Ha’Eri