Clean Energy Group Criticizes Costs of New Power Plant

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Byline: Susan Sarkauskas By Susan Sarkauskas

Customers of the new Prairie State coal-fired electricity plant -- including the electrical agencies to which Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, Naperville and Winnetka belong -- will pay much more for the electricity than they expected when they signed up to invest in the plant, clean energy advocates say in a [URL]report; 20report%2008-12.pdf[/URL] released Wednesday.

Instead of buying power for about $41 per megawatt hour, customers are paying closer to $60, the report says. The cost could be even higher, according to the report, since that figure is based on the $4.9 billion plant's two units running at 85 percent capacity in their first year, which the report says is overly optimistic. The first unit fired up in June, several months behind schedule.

"None of those promises is being kept by Prairie State to date," said Tom Santillo, a co-author of the report. " ... Prairie State is an unnecessary financial burden on local governments and taxpayers."

But Richard Heinemann, general counsel for the [URL]Northern Illinois Municipal Power Agency; emid=66[/URL], disputes the report's findings.

"A lot of the assertions are not really based in fact," he said.

The report was done by Massachusetts-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

The group's mission is, according to its website, to "accelerate the United States' transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy and to reduce the nation's dependence on coal and other nonrenewable energy resources." The report's sources include bond documents; information from American Municipal Power, which owns a 23 percent share; a marketing presentation made to the [URL]Illinois Municipal Electric Agency;[/URL]; and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

A May bill obtained from Batavia by the [URL]Sierra Club;[/URL] under the Freedom of Information Act shows NIMPA charging Batavia and Geneva $57.68 per megawatt hour this year. According to the federal [URL]Energy Information Agency;[/URL], wholesale on-peak electricity averaged $38.17 in northern Illinois the first six months of the year. …