From the Manager - December 2019
This holiday season our families would like to wish all our co-op family members a merry Christmas and happy New Year. As 2019 draws to a close, I’d like to thank all our members who make it possible for the cooperative to provide power across Clay County.
We look forward to a new decade of providing the safest, most reliable and most affordable power possible. With the changing political climate in Illinois, I’d like to take a moment to share some information about what we can see of the road ahead.
Illinois has declared that it wants to be a leader in green energy and the expansion of renewable electrical generation. Many pieces of legislation have been proposed to curb CO2 emissions and move toward a clean energy grid in Illinois.
The push toward green energy has understandable repercussions for existing power plants. Coal and natural gas form the backbone of the grid. Coal-fired power production provides a consistent amount of energy all day and all night. Many gas power facilities are dispatchable to provide extra power when needed during peak hours. Solar and wind generation are neither of those things. They can’t be ramped up when demand is high, and they cannot produce power when the sun is down or the wind isn’t blowing.
Solar and wind energy can be an important part of our energy portfolio, but technological limitations keep them from being an all-out answer. Removing coal-fired base generation from Illinois’ energy portfolio will leave us relying on more expensive power options to cover our electricity needs. Nuclear is a carbon-free energy option that could cover base load, but it is expensive and not favored in the current political climate. Another option is purchasing power from neighboring states, which exports jobs and revenue out of Illinois and would likely also increase the cost of power.
We will continue to keep a close eye on legislation as it moves forward, but the concerns around coal in Illinois are already having an effect. Coal plants will have a hard time staying open as legislation and environmental regulations target them more and more. We are seeing insurance companies raising rates on the coal industry and banking institutions not wanting to lend. As the costs go up and financing becomes harder to find, costs are likely to go up. Clay Electric will continue to do all it can to keep electricity affordable and reliable for our membership. However, as larger forces in the state and in the market start to work against the existing infrastructure, the impact on future rates remains unclear.