Confused about Tenaska Legislation? It's the same pig, despite the cosmetic surgery.

Having failed multiple times to sell legislators on a scheme to charge Illinois ratepayers for high-priced energy from a proposed coal facility in Taylorville, Illinois, the folks at Tenaska have resorted to not just putting lipstick on the pig, but giving the pig a nose-job, liposuction and botox injections.  And as with most cosmetic surgeries – something just doesn’t look quite right about that pig.

A new ad came out Tuesday, suggesting that a good way to “fight rate increases” on our electric bills would be to vote for SB 1653, which requires Illinois ratepayers to foot the bill for a $3.5 billion coal plant in Taylorville, Illinois proposed by the Tenaska Corp.   They call the bill the “Comprehensive Energy Efficiency and Investment Act” – although it is in no way comprehensive energy policy, and its energy efficiency provision is utterly dwarfed by its investment in the coal plant.  Here’s a look at some of the awesome-but-imaginary benefits of the bill claimed in today’s ad.

Voting for Tenaska will increase, not decrease, electric bills.    The ad says that the bill will help “fight rate increases” and “protect consumers.”  In reality, the bill allows homeowners electric bills to go up by 2% to pay for the facility and does not set a cap on bill increases for Illinois businesses.  The Illinois Commerce Commission estimates that power from the Taylorville plant is expected to cost about 21 cents per every kwh.  Generating the same amount of power with wind energy would cost about half as much, and saving the equivalent amount of energy through energy efficiency programs would cost about 3-4 cents per kwh, about one-fifth to one-seventh the cost of the power from Tenaska’s proposed plant. 

Tenaska is not a clean power project, as advertised.  According to the company’s draft updated state emissions permit, the facility would be permitted to emit five million tons of carbon dioxide pollution each year.   While SB 1653 purports to require the facility to sequester half of those carbon emissions, the legislation allows the company to cheaply buy its way out of this requirement.  The company refused to commit to sequestration in their permit application, and the  draft permit from Illinois EPA indicates only that the plant’s carbon pollution may be sequestered at “some point” in the future. 

The ad states that the additional costs will be offset through energy efficiency savings.  In reality, the bill sets out a process whereby the Illinois Power Agency must procure energy efficiency rather than load, if a third party makes a bid to provide that savings at a cost that is lower than supply.  That’s perfectly  fine, but there is no guarantee or requirement that enough savings will be bid into the market to offset the $3.5 billion cost of the coal plant.  Moreover, the third party vendor, rather than the energy consumer, is permitted to pocket most of the difference between their cost of saving energy, and the avoided cost of supply.  In other words, energy efficiency implementers will benefit, but customers will keep far less of the savings than they would keep if the savings were generated as part of the utility programs that customers are accustomed to.

The ad claims that electricity rates are going up 40-60% because of pending environmental regulations.  The ad quotes misinformation that has been thoroughly rebutted by everyone from the Congressional Research Service to a coalition of twelve utilities who have come together to advance common-sense clean air policy.

Requiring ratepayers to foot the bill for 30-year contracts for power from the Tenaska plant has been widely regarded as a bad investment, and it remains so.  We urge legislators to vote against SB 1653.