Letter: City opposes closure of coal-fueled plants


Dear Editor,

For more than 100 years, the City of Rochelle has operated a municipal utility committed to providing energy to its residents and businesses. Because of an unrelenting commitment to providing low-cost, reliable electricity, we oppose the proposed mandated, premature closure of coal-fueled plants currently being discussed in Springfield, which would cause drastic economic damage to our city.

Rochelle works hard to keep energy affordable and reliable while investing in a cleaner energy future. Our portfolio already includes solar, and the city council is considering additional solar and wind generation options in the next five years. Those would make renewable energy account for 15 percent of our daily energy load.

One resource that would be forced to close is Prairie State Energy Campus. A leader in carbon-capture technology, they are partnering with the University of Illinois and the Department of Energy to study ways to reduce carbon emissions and create future job opportunities in Illinois. The resource continues to play a critical role in shielding our customers from volatile costs in the wholesale energy market and provide stability during unpredictable events like severe weather.

The city’s bond obligations on Prairie State will continue whether the plant is operational or not. The costs required for replacement capacity and decommissioning amount to an estimated 10-15 percent increase for our customers.

We are concerned about the downward economic spiral rate increases would trigger. Businesses will leave and not be replaced, increasing resident rates. Residents would leave, if possible, as property values plummet. A decreased tax base would force service cuts. Investor-owned utilities have other sources of revenue and can spread costs across millions of customers, but Rochelle has just 7,000.

A proposed task force to study a Prairie State closure falls woefully short of easing our financial concerns.

Forcing a premature shutdown is akin to taking our home away before it is paid off and forcing us to pay rent elsewhere. We ask our legislators to do the right thing for our people and our economy and reject the early shuttering of Prairie State.

Mayor John Bearrows, City of Rochelle