Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

March 1, 2013

Durbin upset with planned FutureGen appeal


CHAMPAIGN (AP) — Power suppliers in Illinois including Commonwealth Edison are challenging a state-approved plan to help finance the $1.6 billion FutureGen clean-coal project, saying regulators lack the authority to force customers to pay for a project that the companies believe is unnecessary.

ComEd filed a notice with the Illinois Appellate Court last week of its intent to challenge the surcharge, which was approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in December. The 10 market-power companies that make up the Illinois Competitive Energy Association filed their notice Thursday.

The money — an estimated $1 to $1.40 a month on residential electricity customers' bills — would help finance the FutureGen project, which calls for refitting an existing coal-fired plant in Meredosia in western Illinois to burn coal without high emissions of carbon dioxide. The U.S. Department of Energy has pledged $1 billion, leaving the remainder, roughly $600,000, to be covered by FutureGen.

ICEA President Kevin Wright said Thursday that he believes the state commerce commission can't legally make electricity customers help pay for the project.

"We're just really concerned that the commission has exceeded its authority and, for me, I'm particularly concerned about the precedent this sets," he said. "That these unneeded, above-market-price projects will use the same avenue that FutureGen did to get financed when the private market won't. Private investment isn't going to fund these projects because there's no need for them."

ComEd, which is not among the power companies in the ICEA, says it doesn't believe its customers should be forced to help finance FutureGen.

"ComEd has long believed that competitive markets will work in the best interests of our customers," ComEd spokesman David O'Dowd said in an emailed statement. "So we are concerned about the negative impact on our customers from a requirement that would force utilities to buy subsidized generation at above-market prices."

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