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RICL to give power customers another choice

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

Two weeks ago, Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) filed for approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission. The transmission project, which will deliver enough wind energy for 1.4 million homes to Illinois consumers, is estimated to reduce wholesale energy costs across Illinois by $320 million the first year of operations alone, create construction and manufacturing jobs, and dramatically reduce dangerous pollutants. 

A letter by Scott Thorsen [“Wants answers from Clean Line,” Oct. 23] challenged these consumer benefits. A report by the Illinois Power Agency essentially agreed with RICL about the impact of wind on wholesale prices: during 2011, renewable resources, principally wind power, reduced Illinois wholesale power prices by $1.30 per megawatt-hour, from $36.40 to $35.10 per MWh.

Contrary to Thorsen’s claim, it’s simply incorrect that prices have to go up to $70 per MWh for consumers to realize benefits.

David Kolata of the Citizens Utility Board recently stated, “Illinois has restructured its energy markets, and new power supplies, especially new renewable energy supplies, are critical for keeping electricity prices affordable.”

Thorsen asked about the impact of a potential lapse of federal wind energy tax credits. RICL is well positioned to be a low-cost provider for state renewable energy requirements, regardless of credits.  

Renewable energy, particularly wind power, consistently polls as the most popular energy source for Americans. I don’t believe the federal government would continue to subsidize nuclear, coal and natural gas and leave wind energy as the only unsupported energy source for any long period of time.

Thorsen is correct that RICL isn’t free. Someone will pay for transmission capacity. But no one is required to buy capacity on the line. Illinois electricity consumers can switch electric providers if they don’t like how much their provider charges.  

Likewise, we want our customers to have the choice to buy clean, low-cost wind energy that doesn’t pollute or fluctuate with fuel prices.

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