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November 1, 2011 / Mike Piskur

Illinois Power Agency’s new overseers

In early October, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn named Arlene Juracek head of the Illinois Power Agency (IPA). Juracek, a long-time employee of ComEd, was a key part of the negotiating team that created Illinois’ deregulation law and the reverse auction process, which caused dramatic rate increases and led a to $1 billion settlement. IPA was established in 2007 for the purposes of:

  • Developing and submitting annual electricity procurement plans to the Illinois Commerce Commission that ensure adequate, reliable, affordable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable electric service at the lowest total cost over time, taking into account any benefits of price stability for Commonwealth Edison and the Ameren Illinois Utilities.  The plans are to include electricity generated from renewable as well as clean coal resources.
  • Conducting competitive procurement processes according to the procurement plans as approved by the ICC.
  • Developing electric generation and co-generation facilities that use indigenous coal or renewable resources, or both, financed with bonds issued by the Illinois Finance Authority.
  • Supply electricity from the Agency’s facilities at cost to municipal electric systems, governmental aggregators, or rural electric cooperatives in Illinois.

Less than a month after Juracek’s appointment, the Illinois General Assembly voted to strip Gov. Quinn of his control over IPA. Oversight duties now belong to the Executive Ethics Commission, a “nine member commission that promotes ethics in public service. Its purpose is to help ensure that State business is conducted with fairness and integrity.” The governor responded by calling the General Assembly’s decision “extremely short-sighted” and saying:

“This unfortunate action will mean that an agency that is responsible for brokering enormous energy contracts each and every year will be overseen by a commission that has absolutely no background in the complex process of electricity procurement and planning. Additionally, the Executive Ethics Commission does not have the experience needed to effectively manage the operations of a state agency, which it never was intended to do.”

Politicking aside, Illinoisans can only hope that Quinn’s statement is incorrect. IPA’s mandate is to “ensure adequate, reliable, affordable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable electric service”, and to develop renewable resources in Illinois. It is vitally important to the renewable energy industry that the state’s energy broker functions as intended. The General Assembly’s decision ostensibly aims to correct what’s seen as mismanagement by the governor’s office. Already, Juracek testified against long-term contracts for wind energy, in opposition to Quinn and energy developers. Yes, IPA must balance the imperatives of providing low rates for consumers and adequate incentives for developers, but if renewable energy credits (RECs) are the most cost-effective option then the long-term health of the Illinois clean energy industry may be sacrificed for short-term savings.

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