Tenaska, an Omaha, Nebraska-based independent power developer, wants the General Assembly to affirm that electricity bills of millions of Illinois customers will not exceed an approximately 2% rate cap included in legislation approved last year, Senate Bill 1987, that mandates the state’s largest electric utilities, including Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois, buy 5% of their power from TEC for 30 years. After the Illinois Commerce Commission submits a report to the Legislature in September, lawmakers are expected to make a final decision during its fall veto session in November.
During an August ICC hearing, officials representing both Taylorville and Christian County spoke in favor of the project that would generate about 600 megawatts of electricity. An impassioned defense of coal in general and TEC in particular also came from Roger Dennison, chairman of the Illinois Coal Association and president of MaRyan Mining, which operates the Shay No. 1 underground mine near Carlinville for Macoupin Energy, a Cline Group subsidiary. Shay operates out of the former Monterey No. 1 mine facilities.
“Coal has been the backbone of this country,” said Dennison. The economies of China and India are booming, largely because of their reliance on coal. Dennison said Illinois is poised to take advantage of a growth in coal demand spawned by clean coal projects like TEC. “When you look at Illinois coal . . . there are 36,000 square miles of coal under Illinois. We have the largest bituminous reserves in the U.S.”
Tenaska has been awarded a $417 million federal investment tax credit and a little less than $2.6 billion federal loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Bart Ford, Tenaska vice president of business development, said TEC “isn’t just a coal plant, it’s better than existing coal plants.” He claimed the facility “will be cleaner” than the 1,600-megawatt Prairie State Energy Campus coal-fired power plant under construction in Washington County, Ill. Prairie State, whose costs recently were capped at $4 billion, initially was developed by Peabody Energy, which retains a 5% ownership share. The remainder of the mine-mouth project, which includes the new Lively Grove underground mine, is owned by public power agencies.