Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) Commissioner Kevin Wright would like to see state lawmakers adopt legislation that would give the ICC guidance as the state commission starts to consider an ambitious renewable portfolio standard (RPS) recently proposed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
"I don't know what authority the commission itself has to order a RPS or a standard of any kind," Wright told NGI last Tuesday. "I would personally feel more comfortable getting legislative authorization and direction by way of legislation. From my comfort level, I would prefer to see legislation giving us guidance and direction."
Wright spoke with NGI at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) winter committee meetings in Washington, DC.
Blagojevich last week formally submitted his proposal for an "Illinois Sustainable Energy Plan" with the ICC, which includes the proposed RPS. Blagojevich first unveiled details of the RPS in his "State of the State" speech earlier this month (see NGI, Feb. 7).
The RPS would require electric utilities or other electricity suppliers to provide 2% renewable energy to their Illinois customers by 2006, increasing 1% annually to 8% by 2012. This requirement means that nearly 4,000 MW of power would be generated by renewable sources by 2012. At least 75% of renewable energy -- or 3,000 MW -- would be generated by wind power.
Wright serves as chair of the ICC's electric policy committee. He said that he will be holding an electric policy committee meeting in the next 30 days "to invite stakeholder comment and get a full understanding of what this initiative consists" of, adding that ICC staff will also be giving the plan a closer look.
"We certainly welcome his guidance in this area," Wright said in reference to the Illinois governor. "We have an obligation to take a look and make sure that an RPS is the right way for Illinois -- if it is -- and if so, how will it be configured in terms of the components."
He also believes that the state commission has "an obligation to ask the question -- if we do have a RPS, does that bring with it additional costs to our customers and, if so, how much and is that a good tradeoff?"
In presenting his plan to the ICC last week, Blagojevich said that he expected the ICC to promptly take his recommendations under consideration and vote to adopt a final plan as soon as possible. Prior to the official rollout of the RPS plan, Steven Frenkel, the governor's top environmental and energy policy advisor, told Power Market Today that the hope was for the ICC to put the RPS plan in place by this summer.
Addressing the possibility of putting in place RPS rules by this summer, Wright said that "I think that's very ambitious for the commission's schedule. If this is legislation and they pass the legislation in May, I still think that would be fairly aggressive for us -- not impossible -- but" nonetheless an "aggressive and ambitious" timeline. "But until we take a better look at it, I might be commenting a little prematurely," he added.
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