The project has undergone several changes since it was announced by former President George W. Bush in 2003. In December 2005, the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, a non-profit consortium of coal mining and electric utility companies, entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop what was billed as the cleanest coal plant in the world with a target of zero emissions, hydrogen production and carbon dioxide sequestration capabilities. In December 2007, a 444-acre site near Mattoon, in Coles County in east-central Illinois, was selected.

In January 2008, the project was restructured after its estimated cost began rising to about $1.8 billion. In the summer of 2010, it was reconfigured as FutureGen 2.0, with a lower $1.3 billion price tag and plan to repower Ameren Illinois’ Meredosia power plant in Morgan County with oxy-combustion technology. Coles County subsequently withdrew from the project. Since then, developers have been trying to advance the project to the construction stage.

Last year, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation facilitating the planned construction of a 32-mile-long, underground pipeline to carry CO2 from Meredosia to a storage location elsewhere in the west-central Illinois county.

Now, the FutureGen Alliance, which also has changed over the years, has submitted a draft proposal to the IPA, which buys electricity on behalf of Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois, the state’s two largest electric utilities. IPA’s purchase plans are sent to the Illinois Commerce Commission for approval or denial. “The Alliance wants to have this included in the next round of purchases in Illinois,” said FutureGen spokesman Lawrence Pacheco. A power purchase agreement “is a key component for moving the project forward,” he said.

IPA Director Arlene Juracek is expected to forward the agency’s power purchase plan to the ICC late this year, with a final commission decision by late December. In the meantime, Pacheco said FutureGen intends to make an announcement this summer about the CO2 pipeline route through Morgan County.