WBEZ | electricity http://www.wbez.org/tags/electricity Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago electricity and fracking: An update http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130#janice">this story has been updated</a> with our question-asker&#39;s progress.&nbsp;</em></p><p>A few weeks back, we looked at this question from Curious Citizen Janice Thomson:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Now that Chicago has a new electricity supplier, how much of the city&rsquo;s energy would ultimately come from natural gas via fracking?</em></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s municipal electricity aggregation deal (approved by voters in 2012) <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">left Janice and other proponents of renewable energy feeling duped</a>, as the city&rsquo;s pledge to eliminate coal from its fuel mix didn&rsquo;t necessarily translate into a big push for renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. &nbsp;</p><p>When it comes to fracking (technically &ldquo;high-volume hydraulic fracturing&rdquo;), though, here are the takeaways from our first answer: &nbsp;</p><ul><li><p>Chicago&rsquo;s new energy supplier, Integrys, has a portfolio that is &ldquo;primarily&rdquo; natural gas.</p></li><li><p>In 2012, 40 percent of the nation&#39;s natural gas production came from shale formations, and that percentage is rising. A good deal of that new production is derived from fracking, which is being <a href="http://phys.org/news/2013-05-fracking-ground.html">scrutinized as a possible source of groundwater contamination</a>.</p></li><li><p>At least some of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity is generated from natural gas derived via fracking, but it&rsquo;s impossible to know exactly how much because the nation&rsquo;s gas supply is not divided by fracked and conventional sources.</p></li></ul><p>But shortly after <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">our story</a> came out, Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall announced that&nbsp;the electricity aggregation deal will <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003">double the city&rsquo;s share of wind power to 5 percent of the total</a>, and even tied that directly to two downstate wind farms. But it&rsquo;s also clear that the deal largely traded one fossil fuel for another; yes, the city would stop using coal to supply electricity and 5 percent will come from wind, but nearly all of the rest (about 95 percent) will be derived from burning natural gas.</p><p>So, what &mdash; if anything &mdash; changes when it comes to answering Janice&#39;s question?</p><p><strong>More power from PA, U.S.A &nbsp;</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Capture4.GIF" style="float: right; margin: 5px; height: 139px; width: 250px;" title="Janice Thomson's question inspired our survey on energy choices. A link on the top left of this post leads you there. You can see results there, too. " />Integrys, the city&rsquo;s new energy supplier, will need to make sure Chicago has enough non-coal electricity on hand to meet demand. To do that, the company&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003">tapped a previously underused natural gas power plant</a> in Pennsylvania. <a href="http://www.nexteraenergyresources.com/content/where/portfolio/pdf/Marcus_Hook.pdf/">The Marcus Hook power station</a>, located about 20 miles south of Philadelphia, is set to meet the 95 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity supply not coming from Illinois wind.</p><p>As Marcus Hook revs up to provide the equivalent of most of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity needs, should Janice be more or less concerned about fracking?</p><p>Unfortunately, plant owner NextEra Energy Resources would not disclose the source of its natural gas, but nationally about a third of domestically produced natural gas is obtained through fracking &mdash; a number expected to top 50 percent by 2035, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Likewise Pennsylvania&rsquo;s natural gas resources are predominantly obtained via fracking, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean Marcus Hook is necessarily buying Pennsylvania gas. The state <a href="http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=2870">accounts for almost two-thirds</a> of northeast natural gas production, however, and 80 percent of that is from fracking.</p><p>Without other definitive sources available, though, we&rsquo;re right back where we started: It&rsquo;s extremely likely that some of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity is now coming from natural gas derived from fracking, but we can&rsquo;t be precise with the amount.</p><p><strong>Are there other benefits to report?</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/janice%20thomson_2.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 160px; width: 250px;" title="Janice Thomson asked Curious City about natural gas and its relationship to Chicago's electricity aggregation contract. (Photo courtesy of Janice Thomson)" />Janice&rsquo;s question is about fracking, but she&rsquo;s also interested in sustainability in general, and judging from responses we&rsquo;ve gotten to our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077">survey on energy choices</a>, plenty of other people are interested, too.</p><p>One source on this is a <a href="http://www.perfectpowerinstitute.org/sites/default/files/Chicago%20CCA%20Preliminary%20Report.pdf">report by the Illinois Institute of Technology&rsquo;s Perfect Power Institute</a>.</p><p>PPI laid out at least three points that get into whether there&rsquo;s improvement. On the side of air quality, the report suggests Chicago&rsquo;s electricity aggregation deal, including the new provision for local wind power and natural gas, reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 98 percent. NOx, as it&rsquo;s called, is a known contributor to local ozone pollution as well as acid rain. &nbsp;</p><p>The report also suggests the city&rsquo;s electricity aggregation deal will conserve water that&rsquo;s used in the process of making electricity &mdash; the equivalent of the annual consumption of about 12,500 households. These calculations were made using data Marcus Hook reported to the federal government.</p><p><strong>The carbon question</strong></p><p>But what about climate change? The bottom line for the city&rsquo;s carbon footprint is complicated. Before Chicago ratepayers voted to let the city buy electricity in bulk on their behalf, about 40 percent of their power came from coal-fired power plants. Another one third came from nuclear &mdash; a much larger share than is typical, due to Illinois&rsquo; relatively high number of nuclear power plants. Except when Marcus Hook is down due outages, Integrys will be buying little nuclear power on Chicago&rsquo;s behalf. Essentially zero-carbon energy, nuclear power has a very small greenhouse gas footprint. By comparison, coal makes a large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions per unit of power produced.</p><p>The PPI report said that the city&rsquo;s switch from a combo of coal and nuclear to (mostly) natural gas led to a 16 percent reduction in carbon emissions. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If it [the sources the deal replaced] had been all coal,&rdquo; said the Perfect Power Institute&rsquo;s John Kelly, &ldquo;we would have been talking about easily more than a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions.&rdquo;</p><p>Kelly added that the city&rsquo;s power supply emissions report will be updated every year to reflect the Marcus Hook plant&rsquo;s performance.</p><p>The 16 percent reduction figure, though, depends on methane leakage figures that are the subject of scientific debate. Gas burns much more cleanly at the power plant than coal. But while leakage during combustion gets attention, not as much is known about greenhouse gas leakage during the delivery and processing of natural gas &mdash; activities that have ballooned in recent years as a result of the U.S. shale gas boom.</p><p>As the PPI report itself mentions, &ldquo;Methane escapes in the harvesting of natural gas from wells, during the processing that cleans it up for use, and from distributing it through the pipeline transmission networks. CO2 also leaks or is generated in gas production, processing and delivery systems.&rdquo; Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>The PPI study was actually rare among such studies in its attention to the issue of methane leakage. Nationally the boom in high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has raised the issue of methane leakage, as national energy policy proposals attempt to reconcile an increase in domestic fossil fuel production with the potentially conflicting goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.</p><p>Steven Stengel, a spokesman for the company, said the piping that supplies Marcus Hook with gas &ldquo;doesn&rsquo;t come anywhere near&rdquo; the EPA&rsquo;s reporting requirement threshold of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Perfect Power Institute&rsquo;s calculation for greenhouse gas emissions from methane leakage, therefore, came from national averages for so-called fugitive emissions.</p><p>&ldquo;EPA has really cracked down on the gas industry about letting the methane leak,&rdquo; said PPI&rsquo;s John Kelly. &ldquo;Over the last two years these numbers have come down.&rdquo;</p><p>Earlier this year<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891"> EPA revised down its estimate of methane emissions from natural gas between 1990 and 2010</a> to reflect changing industry practices. The Marcus Hook plant&rsquo;s design, for example, is more efficient than older models, which let a substantial portion of gas get through.</p><p><strong>Other options</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s worth remembering that Janice&rsquo;s original question was about the fuel mix for Chicagoans&rsquo; default electricity provider. As we mention in our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077">survey post</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">original answer</a>, though, there are alternative suppliers. The bad news is that the options are sometimes hard to compare with one another or, as is the case with our look into Integrys&rsquo; portfolio, data are limited and can&rsquo;t illuminate every question we&rsquo;d have about those choices.</p><p><strong>An update from Janice<a name="janice"></a></strong></p><p>Our intrepid question-asker Janice decided to investigate the options further. We thought folks interested in alternative energy supply would be curious to know what she found. Here&#39;s an update from Janice on August 22, 2013. &nbsp;</p><p><em>As promised, I did investigate alternative electricity suppliers that would purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) on my behalf. The only supplier I could find that purchases RECs from Illinois was Viridian Energy. Most of the others seem to purchase RECs from wind farms in other states, especially Texas. These RECs are so cheap that the electricity cost was about the same as from Integrys. So switching would be painless and might send a message to Integrys that natural gas is not ok.</em></p><p><em>I want to help green the electricity grid that serves Chicago though, and purchasing RECs from Texas wind farms wouldn&rsquo;t do that. So I signed up for Viridian Energy&rsquo;s 100% wind power (Green-E certified &ldquo;green energy&rdquo;) fixed rate plan for 12 months. At .0649/kWh, it&rsquo;s slightly more expensive than the other suppliers, but not that much (Integrys currently charges 0.05589/kWh for mostly &ldquo;brown energy&rdquo;). The RECs are mostly from Illinois wind farms. Viridian Energy will also donate some funds (I couldn&rsquo;t get an answer as to how much exactly) to a local charity of my choosing. So it seemed the best I could do right now. I&rsquo;ll reevaluate my options in a year.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>By the way, I was told some crazy things by electricity company reps. For example, a Verde customer service representative told me that they don&rsquo;t buy RECs and the electricity entering my home would literally come directly from renewable sources. Knowing this was untrue, I emailed Verde&rsquo;s corporate office to ask from where they purchased RECs. They then told me all of their electricity in Chicago was in fact &ldquo;brown&rdquo;!<br /><br />Finding a way to lobby the city to increase the percentage of renewable energy in the electricity aggregation contract is proving challenging! Most of what I found online is out of date. I e-mailed three environmental organizations about this topic, but haven&rsquo;t gotten any responses yet. &nbsp;</em></p><p>Thanks, Janice for your ace reporting and for asking a question that brought us so much new information!</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment for WBEZ. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Sun, 21 Jul 2013 23:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130 City’s power deal boosts wind energy http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/2643266482_465ec09356_z_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Two downstate wind farms will provide five percent of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office announced Tuesday, nearly doubling the share of wind power in the city&rsquo;s electricity supply.</p><p>Through its <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/Electricity%20Aggregation/GeneralAggregationPresentation.pdf">municipal aggregation program</a>, the city negotiated with electricity supplier Integrys Energy Services to increase the amount of wind energy it sends to Chicago homes and small businesses.</p><p><a href="http://www.perfectpowerinstitute.org/sites/default/files/Chicago%20CCA%20Preliminary%20Report.pdf">A report released Tuesday</a> by the Illinois Institute of Technology&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.perfectpowerinstitute.org/">Perfect Power Institute</a> said Chicago&rsquo;s electricity aggregation deal, including the new provision for local wind power, &ldquo;achieve[s] substantial reductions&rdquo; in air pollution. According to the report, electricity aggregation led to a 16 percent reduction in carbon emissions, a 98 percent reduction in ozone depleting and acid rain causing nitrogen oxide emissions, and a water-use savings equivalent to the annual consumption of about 12,500 households.</p><p>That report also said a previously underused natural gas power plant in Pennsylvania would ramp up production to meet the 95 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s electricity demand not coming from Illinois wind. Chicago and <a href="http://www.nexteraenergyresources.com/content/where/portfolio/pdf/Marcus_Hook.pdf/">the Marcus Hook power plant</a>, located about 20 miles south of Philadelphia, are in the same region of the power grid overseen by PJM Interconnection, which stretches from New Jersey to North Carolina and also includes patches of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.</p><p>In November voters let the city negotiate for cheaper energy on their behalf, approving electricity aggregation by 56 percent. The city agreed to buy electricity from Integrys, a sister company of Peoples Gas, at a fixed rate through May 2015.</p><p>Price was the defining feature of the deal. The city said replacing Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) saved ratepayers an average of $150 per year on electricity bills, due to ComEd&rsquo;s long-term contracts with more expensive energy suppliers.</p><p>But the aggregation deal also pushed the city&rsquo;s power supply towards cleaner sources of energy. Chicago required its new energy supplier to rid the city&rsquo;s fuel mix of coal, which previously provided about 43 percent of the roughly 5 million megawatt-hours of electricity the city consumes each year.</p><p>Chicago commands some attention in the market, so the city&rsquo;s decision to specify the fuel mix could set a precedent.</p><p>&ldquo;Something that suppliers wouldn&rsquo;t necessarily put forth the effort to do for a smaller customer, they have done for Chicago,&rdquo; said Mark Pruitt, a consultant with the city on its aggregation deal. &ldquo;I think that the supply community, once they realize that this is desirable, will respond positively and they&rsquo;ll find a way to get it done for smaller volume communities.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932">Natural gas replaced the bulk of the power previously supplied by coal, irking some voters who viewed the November referendum as a vote for renewable energy</a>. Currently the city&rsquo;s deal requires Integrys to meet<a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=IL04R"> the state Renewable Portfolio Standard</a> (RPS), which ramps up gradually to meet the state&rsquo;s goal of 25 percent by 2025. This year it rose to 7 percent. Integrys satisfies that requirement largely through the purchase of paper credits called Renewable Energy Certificates.</p><p>The 5 percent of electricity coming directly from downstate wind farms, the identity of which the Mayor&rsquo;s office would not reveal Tuesday, is in addition to the RPS.</p><p>Tuesday&rsquo;s announcement that the city would seek electricity produced by two Illinois wind farms came as welcome news to members of the Illinois Clean Power Coalition, who fought to close Chicago&rsquo;s Fisk and Crawford coal plants and promoted electricity aggregation as a means to renewable energy deployment.</p><p>&ldquo;Our goal is to green our grid,&rdquo; said Sarah Wochos of the Environmental Law &amp; Policy Center, &ldquo;not just to buy renewable energy certificates from faraway.&rdquo;</p><p>Essentially paper credits used to offset pollution from fossil fuel-fired energy, RECs can go toward a city&rsquo;s or energy supplier&rsquo;s renewable energy requirements without procuring any actual electricity. Texas&rsquo; booming wind industry has flooded the market with cheap RECs that provide so-called &ldquo;100 percent renewable&rdquo; electricity deals with a relatively inexpensive way to say their power supply is green.</p><p>In reality, the industry does not track the sources of individual electrons sent through the grid. Still, direct power purchases send a stronger market signal than do RECs, many analysts say, although RECs do provide supplemental income for renewable energy providers.</p><p>Renewable energy supporters are hopeful that municipal electricity aggregation could prove a useful vehicle to promote policies from distributed energy storage to local green jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;With municipal aggregation,&rdquo; said The Sierra Club&rsquo;s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin, &ldquo;cities like Chicago and every city and suburb in Illinois has the power to ask those questions to their suppliers.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago&#39;s inclusion of local wind energy in their power supply is an example for other aggregated communities to follow and build upon,&rdquo; he said in a statement.</p><p>About 600 cities and towns across the state have pursued aggregation deals.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @Cementley</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 09 Jul 2013 17:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/city%E2%80%99s-power-deal-boosts-wind-energy-108003 Chicago’s energy deal: An ‘F’ for fracking? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fracking%20topper%202.jpg" title="Fracking operation near Shreveport, Louisiana. (Flickr/danielfoster437)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F99525534&amp;color=00bdff&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: Chris Bentley answered Janice Thomson&#39;s question about a week before Chicago&#39;s City Hall announced new developments regarding the municipal aggregation deal mentioned here. In an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-electricity-and-fracking-update-108130">update</a>, we take another look at the question posed here, given that there&#39;s new information on the role of wind power and natural gas in the city&#39;s municipal aggregation contract.</em><em>&nbsp;But Janice&#39;s question also prompted us to wonder if other people are considering choosing alternative electricity providers. We&#39;ve been hearing from many people about why or why not. You can <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/power-struggle-who%E2%80%99s-your-energy-provider-108077">have your say</a> right now as well.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Curious Citizen Janice Thomson does not consider herself an environmentalist.</p><p>&ldquo;Environmentalist has this different kind of connotation,&rdquo; said the northsider. &ldquo;I think of environmentalists as people who go hiking. And I don&rsquo;t. But I&rsquo;m obviously concerned about impacts on our earth, our air, our ability to grow food.&rdquo;</p><p>After five years living in Brussels, Belgium she got used to regular media coverage of climate change and renewable energy. Back in the U.S., even a<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/science/earth/arctic-sea-ice-stops-melting-but-new-record-low-is-set.html"> record low in arctic sea ice</a> failed to elicit any mention of the issue during the 2012 presidential debates &mdash; <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/23/the-issue-that-dare-not-speak-its-name/?_r=0">the first time that has happened since 1988</a>.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/janice thomson.jpg" style="height: 175px; width: 275px; float: right;" title="Curious citizen Janice Thomson says she felt duped by the definition of clean energy Chicago used in electricity aggregation language." /></p><p>&ldquo;When I came back to Chicago [in 2011] I was looking for a renewable supplier for my energy,&rdquo; Thomson said. Along with about 56 percent of Chicago voters, she voted yes on the<a href="http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=210191"> 2012 referendum</a> for<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/progs/Electricity%20Aggregation/GeneralAggregationPresentation.pdf"> municipal electricity aggregation</a>, hoping it would expand the market for wind and solar power.</p><p>Then she got a letter from Integrys Energy Services, the city&rsquo;s new electricity supplier, touting the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;cleaner&rdquo; energy supply.</p><p>Chicago struck a two-year contract with Integrys, replacing Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison and reportedly saving households $150 on average per year by 2015.<a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130104/NEWS11/130109930/city-reveals-integrys-winning-energy-bid"> <em>Crain&#39;s Chicago Business</em></a> reported Integrys won the deal with a fee of about $8.8 million, about two thirds the price of runner-up Exelon. Energy prices change daily, and low prices are not guaranteed forever, but the contract gives the city an option to switch after May 2014.</p><p>The deal didn&rsquo;t deal just with energy, costs, though; it also eliminated coal, which used to provide roughly 40 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s power, from the city&rsquo;s fuel mix. So our Curious Citizen wanted to know:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Now that Chicago has a new electricity supplier, how much of the city&rsquo;s energy would ultimately come from natural gas via fracking?</em></p><p>Jennifer Block, a spokeswoman for Integrys, said the new fuel mix would be &ldquo;primarily&rdquo; natural gas. Integrys buys electricity wholesale from many power plants and passes it along to distributors like ComEd. The company won&rsquo;t divulge which power plants it buys from, which can and do vary constantly based on the price of those power plants&rsquo; electricity. Integrys can&rsquo;t track individual electrons as they make their way through the grid, so Chicago&rsquo;s no-coal requirement just means Integrys will need to verify that at any given time they have enough non-coal power in their possession to satisfy all of the city&rsquo;s demand. Because it is currently inexpensive, natural gas-fired electricity will satisfy the brunt of that demand.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/crawford%20coal%20chris%20betley.jpg" style="height: 185px; width: 315px; float: left;" title="The Crawford coal-fired electricity generating facility, one of two southwest side coal plants closed in 2012, sits along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. (Flickr/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>But for Thomson and self-identifying environmentalists alike, trading one fossil fuel for another might be considered a <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pyrrhic%20victory">Pyrrhic victory</a> at best. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know that clean energy wasn&rsquo;t the same as renewable energy,&rdquo; Thomson said.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s requirement that its new energy supplier drop coal was the first of its kind, and the<a href="http://cleanpowerchicago.org/"> Chicago Clean Power Coalition</a> endorsed aggregation as a means to promote renewable energy in the future. Currently the city&rsquo;s deal only requires Integrys to meet <a href="http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=IL04R">the state Renewable Portfolio Standard</a> (RPS), which rose this year to 7 percent. The RPS ramps up gradually in pursuit of the state&rsquo;s 25 percent by 2025 goal. Solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, anaerobic digestion, biodiesel and landfill gas &mdash; methane, essentially natural gas, recovered from landfills &mdash; count towards the state&rsquo;s RPS, but natural gas mined from the earth through fracking or other methods does not.</p><p><a href="http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/natural-gas.html">According to the Environmental Protection Agency</a>, natural gas-fired power plants emit about half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides as coal plants. That&rsquo;s the main basis for calling natural gas a &ldquo;clean&rdquo; fuel &mdash; it&rsquo;s clean compared to coal.</p><p>&ldquo;Clean sounds nice,&rdquo; Thomson said, &ldquo;but it doesn&rsquo;t mean what you think it does. I felt duped.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The &lsquo;F&rsquo; Word</strong></p><p>Thomson shares many environmentalists negative opinion of the controversial drilling process of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Joining the religious environmental consortium<a href="http://faithinplace.org/"> Faith in Place</a> on a lobbying trip to Springfield, Janice helped call<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/madigan-mell-push-two-year-ban-fracking-106109"> for a moratorium on fracking</a>, and then later, when an outright ban seemed unlikely, for strong regulations on the practice. Governor Pat Quinn<a href="http://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/frack"> signed the regulatory bill into law</a> on June 17.</p><p>While emissions from natural gas power plants are substantially lower than those from coal plants, the process of extracting and transporting the resource is fraught with technical challenges.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/silverfuture%20stop%20illinois%20fracking.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="A protest against fracking in Illinois from July 2012. (Flickr/silverfuture)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Unconventional&rdquo; oil and gas resources are so-named because they have previously been impossible to dig up economically. But innovations in drilling technology have brought together fracking, in which drillers blast water, fine sand and chemicals to break up porous rock containing fossil fuels, and horizontal drilling, which allows a single rig to explore long, flat sedimentary rock formations thousands of feet underground without drilling straight down from the surface many times. The resulting practice has opened up massive stores of previously out-of-reach oil and gas.</p><p>It has also sparked environmental concerns. When well casings fail, for example, fracking fluid &nbsp;and other material<a href="http://phys.org/news/2013-05-fracking-ground.html"> can contaminate groundwater</a>. Drillers recover much of the fluid used in fracking, but some is left deep underground. And in areas stricken by drought,<a href="http://www.reporternews.com/news/2013/jun/16/texas-illinois-fracking-fuels-water-fights-nations/"> the water-intensive process has sparked fights</a> over water use.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s global warming. Methane, the primary component of natural gas,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/more-methane-epa-reexamines-potency-greenhouse-gas-107148"> is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide</a>, and how much of it leaks into the atmosphere as a result of fracking<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/epa-rolls-back-methane-emissions-natural-gas-106891"> is a topic of heated debate</a>. Many environmentalists argue even if methane leakage is low, the math says<a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719"> we have to start leaving fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change</a>.</p><p>The drilling industry calls Illinois&rsquo; regulations the toughest in the nation, noting provisions for water quality monitoring and oversight from state environmental agencies. In 2010 Congress ordered the EPA to investigate whether fracking posed risks to drinking water, with results expected in 2014.<a href="http://grist.org/news/epa-delays-fracking-safety-study-until-2016/"> The results of that study were recently delayed until 2016</a>.</p><p><strong>Curious kilowatts</strong></p><p>Drillers<a href="http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/southern-illinois-counties-seeing-fracking-rush-682303/"> have already leased land in 17 Illinois counties</a> and, according to <a href="http://www.pantagraph.com/news/state-and-regional/illinois/high-volume-fracking-already-underway-in-ill/article_48600bc8-c87c-11e2-9335-001a4bcf887a.html">an Associated Press investigation</a> of state records, at least one company has already attempted high-volume fracking in the state. But the Illinois Oil and Gas Association&rsquo;s Brad Richards said it will likely be at least six months before the first permit is issued.</p><p>&ldquo;Realistically this thing&rsquo;s a year or more out before we see any significant production going to market,&rdquo; Richards said, noting that test wells first need to verify how much oil and gas is actually in Illinois&rsquo; New Albany Shale play. Drilling itself takes time, and pipeline infrastructure would have to be built to transport large quantities of gas.</p><p>Even when they do hit the market, Illinois&rsquo; resources are heavily weighted towards oil, not gas. Gas is very cheap at the moment, Richards said, &ldquo;And these companies wouldn&rsquo;t be here leasing if they believed it were a dry gas play.&rdquo;</p><p>Conventional production in Illinois is almost entirely oil, with very little gas. So especially in the near term, Chicago&rsquo;s natural gas-fired electricity almost certainly isn&rsquo;t coming from downstate.</p><p>Nationally about 40 percent of U.S. natural gas production was from shale formations in 2012, according to Jonathan Cogan of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That share is growing, so it&rsquo;s likely that at least some of the electricity Integrys buys from natural gas power plants comes ultimately from fracking.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/U.S.%20Energy%20Information%20Administration.png" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="The natural gas supply, according to U.S. EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2012, in trillions of cubic feet per year, projected to 2035. Unconventional gas plays a significant and growing role. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)" /></p><p>It&rsquo;s impossible to tell exactly how much fracked natural gas ends up as electricity in Chicago, Integrys&rsquo; Jennifer Block said. The same problem afflicts opponents of particular types of oil.</p><p>&ldquo;People sometimes want to boycott products made from Canadian Oil, for example,&rdquo; said the Illinois Oil and Gas Association&rsquo;s Brad Richards, &ldquo;but once it hits the refinery, oil is oil, baby. The golf balls, the plastic bags, the gas in your tank &mdash; who knows where what came from.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Other options? </strong></p><p>Someone like our Curious Citizen who wants to avoid any connection with fracking could opt-out of the Integrys program altogether without a cancellation fee. Many suppliers offer customers &ldquo;100 percent green&rdquo; options, which generally rely on Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).</p><p>Essentially renewable energy derivatives, RECs accumulate at any renewable energy power plant that generates electricity. A wind farm in Iowa, for example, could sell its RECs to a city in Illinois looking to offset pollution from a predominantly fossil fuel-fired electricity supplier.</p><p>Consider Evanston. The north suburb&rsquo;s own electricity aggregation deal calls for an audit of the electricity supplier &mdash; at first Constellation, now Verde Energy &mdash; to make sure they are purchasing enough RECs to offset 100 percent of the city&rsquo;s electricity use. According to<a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.icc.illinois.gov%2Fdownloads%2Fpublic%2FIL%20Disclosure%20Label%20June%202013.pdf"> their most recent environmental disclosure statement</a>, Verde&rsquo;s actual electricity still comes mostly from fossil fuels. But Evanston&rsquo;s sustainability coordinator, Catherine Hurley, said RECs move the market nonetheless.</p><p>&ldquo;Wind energy assets run at a very small margin, so the additional revenue stream that RECs offer really does help make the case for developing renewable energy,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Currently it&rsquo;s the best, easiest and cheapest option for us to take the next step forward.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ice%20bear%20chris%20bentley.jpg" style="height: 199px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Outside Evanston's Chandler-Newberger Community Center, the city's newly installed Ice Bear whirs on a hot summer day. The system makes ice to store energy at night, when electricity generation is less expensive, and releases it as the ice melts during the day to cool the building. A pilot project, the Ice Bear is part of Evanston's electricity aggregation deal with energy supplier Verde. (Flickr/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>Verde&rsquo;s contract with Evanston offsets 100 percent of the city&rsquo;s energy with RECs at a rate lower than competitors.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason to do it is two-fold,&rdquo; said Evanston&rsquo;s mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl. &ldquo;It saves money and it reduces your carbon footprint. What could be better?&rdquo;</p><p>And no matter what supplier a consumer chooses, there is one universal option to lessen demand for nonrenewable resources.</p><p>&ldquo;One thing consumers can do is use less,&rdquo; said Tom Wolf, of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. &ldquo;Every kilowatt you don&rsquo;t use is one that doesn&rsquo;t have to be produced.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760">RECs may not be the ideal means of encouraging renewable energy deployment</a>, but they are a useful tool for communities like Evanston that aren&rsquo;t near many utility-scale renewable energy power plants. Likewise municipal aggregation itself could give a voice to citizens who want more control over their power supply.</p><p>&ldquo;In 2012 Chicago asked the question of which suppliers can give us coal free electricity,&rdquo; said The Sierra Club&rsquo;s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin. &ldquo;In the future Chicago or other cities are free to ask, &lsquo;Who can give us gas-fired power that didn&rsquo;t come from fracking?&rsquo; We&rsquo;re just really at the tip of the iceberg in innovation here &hellip; at the end of the day the demand for all energy starts with us.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment for WBEZ. Follow him</em><a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"><em> @cementley</em></a></p></p> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 16:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago%E2%80%99s-energy-deal-%E2%80%98f%E2%80%99-fracking-107932 Energy suppliers challenge the lawfulness of a 'clean coal' subsidy http://www.wbez.org/news/energy-suppliers-challenge-lawfulness-clean-coal-subsidy-105828 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F81254444&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/938pre_02d8b79bfc7983a.jpg" style="float: left;" title="(WBEZ) A coal-fired power plant in Illinois" />A group of energy companies is challenging a likely increase in the price of electricity. They say energy from FutureGen, a proposed coal plant project in central Illinois, would cost more for consumers.</p><p>FutureGen is developing an ambitious coal plant and storage facility in Morgan County that would remove almost all of the carbon dioxide from emissions and transport it to a storage facility that would push the gas deep underground. The project&rsquo;s proponents include Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.</p><p>Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has been linked to climate change.</p><p>In December, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a plan that would require energy suppliers to buy part of their power from FutureGen over a 20-year period. The estimated price increase to consumers would be less than 1.5 percent, below the 2 percent cap state law places on new costs for clean energy projects.</p><p>But a group of private suppliers is fighting the ICC decision through the Illinois Appellate Court. Commonwealth Edison also has filed a separate challenge to the order.</p><div style="margin:0;">&ldquo;Why should consumers be subsidizing power that is above today&rsquo;s market price for electricity?&rdquo; said Kevin Wright, president of the Illinois Competitive Energy Association. He represents a consortium of companies who provide electricity. He said requiring his clients to participate in what he called a &quot;subsidy&quot; for so-called clean coal is unlawful and works to undermine a competitive electricity market. He also argued Illinois does not need any new power sources.</div><p>Advocates say FutureGen will turn Meredosia power plant into a cutting-edge clean coal facility. But the project has run into many roadblocks since its inception in 2006, including <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/scitech/science/illinois-lurch-futuregen" target="_blank">a struggle to find a location</a> in 2008, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/politics/report-math-error-killed-futuregen" target="_blank">political drama in 2009</a> over misestimating the cost of the plant, and a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/futuregen-hits-another-snag" target="_blank">loss of key funders</a> that same year.&nbsp;</p><p>In 2011, FutureGen was declared to be underway again, this time as FutureGen 2.0, and a $1 billion grant from the federal government gave the project new viability. A 2011 fact sheet from FutureGen puts the project cost at $1.3 billion, and says the plant will create 2,000 jobs.</p><p>On Wednesday Sen. Durbin released a statement putting ComEd&rsquo;s parent company Exelon on the hot seat for withdrawing from the FutureGen Alliance and then mounting a court challenge to the funding plan. Last month Exelon announced it would pull out of the group of companies lending support to the plan, although <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130228/NEWS11/130229710/durbin-blasts-exelon-for-futuregen-betrayal" target="_blank">Crain&#39;s reported</a> Exelon said it was never officially a member of the Alliance.</p><p>&ldquo;Exelon sent its smiling representatives to press conferences lauding the value of FutureGen,&rdquo; said Durbin. &ldquo;Then last month, Exelon abruptly resigned from the FutureGen Alliance without explanation and today we learned Exelon has filed an appeal challenging the ICC ruling which is critical part of our FutureGen strategy. This heavy-handed corporate betrayal has few parallels in Illinois history.&rdquo;</p><p>Representatives of the FutureGen Alliance were not available to comment Wednesday, but a spokesperson said in an email that &ldquo;appeals are a normal part of the process and will be resolve (sic) in due time. In parallel, FutureGen 2.0&rsquo;s development activities will continue without disruption.&rdquo;</p><p>A spokesperson for the ICC declined to comment until she&rsquo;s seen the court filing, but said the commission stands by its December order.</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter.</a></p></p> Thu, 28 Feb 2013 15:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/energy-suppliers-challenge-lawfulness-clean-coal-subsidy-105828 Activists rejoice as coal-fired plants shut down http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Fisk.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 219px; width: 300px; " title="Built in 1903, the Fisk station stands near Dvorak Park in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. (AP file/M. Spencer Green)" /></p><div>Neighborhood and environmental activists are celebrating as Chicago&rsquo;s last two coal-fired electricity plants enter a three-month decommissioning phase. But the closings are leaving dozens of Midwest Generation workers without a job.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The company, a subsidiary of California-based Edison International, says its Crawford station in the city&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood burned its last lump of coal more than a week ago after operating since 1924. The Fisk station, constructed in 1903 in nearby Pilsen, shut down Thursday night.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Activists campaigned for more than a decade to close the plants or curb their harmful emissions, which included asthma-triggering soot and carbon dioxide, a contributor to global warming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Standing near Crawford on Friday afternoon, Rafael Hurtado of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization almost had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn&rsquo;t dreaming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The smokestack and the chimney are not running,&rdquo; Hurtado observed. &ldquo;The parking lot is empty other than the security guards. This is a victory not only for our organization but Little Village and Pilsen and the city of Chicago.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Local 15 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represented about 135 workers at the plants, says some are accepting retirement packages or transferring to another Midwest Generation site, where they will bump employees with less seniority. The union represents about 700 workers at the company&rsquo;s six Illinois generators.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;There just aren&rsquo;t enough jobs,&rdquo; said Doug Bedinger, a Local 15 business representative for the workers. &ldquo;There will be hardship.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Midwest Generation President Douglas McFarlan said roughly 100 union members are leaving voluntarily while another 50 get laid off.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>McFarlan, meanwhile, said the company is trying to sell the Chicago sites. The timing of environmental remediation &ldquo;depends on the interests&rdquo; of the buyers, he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s part of the sales process,&rdquo; McFarlan said, adding that a school might have different cleanup needs than a warehouse.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The closings resulted partly from federal clean-air rules requiring Midwest Generation to retrofit its plants. McFarlan said a bigger factor was the rise of natural gas production, which has put downward pressure on energy prices. &ldquo;We just can&rsquo;t run profitably,&rdquo; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 31 Aug 2012 18:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129 Electricity shortages in Lebanon spark offshore natural gas exploration http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-04/electricity-shortages-lebanon-spark-offshore-natural-gas-exploration-928 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-04/lebanon1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Lebanon, most people have learned to cope with unreliable electricity. But a long term solution to Lebanon’s power problem may lie offshore.</p><p>Recently, neighboring Israel discovered an enormous natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea just south of Lebanon. Energy experts say there’s enough gas there to satisfy Israel’s needs for the next hundred years. Lebanon believes there may be significant natural gas reserves off its coast as well. Don Duncan from the <em>World Vision Report</em> looks into what this could mean for the people of Lebanon.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>This story originally aired on the <a href="http://www.worldvisionreport.org/" target="_blank">World Vision Report</a>.</em> <em>We got it from the Public Radio Exchange.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 04 Oct 2011 16:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-04/electricity-shortages-lebanon-spark-offshore-natural-gas-exploration-928 Heat wave leads ComEd to suspend electricity shutoffs http://www.wbez.org/story/heat-wave-leads-comed-suspend-electricity-shutoffs-89494 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-21/ComEd.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Northern Illinois residents behind on their electricity bills don’t have to worry about Commonwealth Edison disconnecting them. They don’t, that is, until the heat wave lets up.</p><p>If a day’s National Weather Service forecast predicts temperatures of at least 95 degrees, Illinois prohibits a big power company from disconnecting homes that depend on the juice to keep cool.</p><p>ComEd spokeswoman Arlana Johnson late Thursday said her company, given the heat, had not cut off any of its residential customers since last week. “We have been evaluating that on a daily basis,” she added.</p><p>The company’s restraint won praise from Elce Redmond, an organizer of the South Austin Coalition, a neighborhood group on Chicago’s West Side that is pushing for an overhaul of utility shutoff policies. “That’s a good first step,” Redmond said. “But, once the weather breaks, are they going to start massive disconnections?”</p><p>At a press conference Thursday afternoon, the coalition demanded a three-month moratorium on shutoffs and, then, more affordable reconnection and repayment terms.</p><p>ComEd responded that it cut off power only as a last resort. “No business can continue to operate if customers don’t pay for the service,” Johnson said.</p><p>During the year’s first six months, ComEd disconnected 46,493 customers for nonpayment and reconnected 28,252, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission. Those figures were up 4.1&nbsp;percent and 28.5&nbsp;percent, respectively, from the same months of 2010.</p></p> Fri, 22 Jul 2011 10:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/heat-wave-leads-comed-suspend-electricity-shutoffs-89494 North suburbs call ComEd to account for power outages http://www.wbez.org/story/north-suburbs-call-comed-account-power-outages-89232 <p><p>Officials in Chicago’s northern suburbs are calling power provider ComEd to account for frequent and long-lasting blackouts. A storm last Monday left many customers without electricity, some for the entire week.</p><div><div>In Evanston, strong winds toppled dozens of trees, taking down lines to more than 12,000 thousand customers. But Evanston Alderman Jane Grover says that during other outages this summer, electricity was unavailable even when the lines remained up.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>“Evanston is still very much concerned about the ComEd infrastructure issues,” said Grover, ”as well as their response time for restoration of power, and their ability to pump information out into the community about preparing for a longer outage.”</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Grover and her fellow aldermen will grill ComEd representatives at a city council meeting Monday night. The power company faced Park Ridge officials and residents at a meeting last Thursday. Highland Park has invited the company to answer questions at its July 25 council meeting.</div></div></p> Mon, 18 Jul 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/north-suburbs-call-comed-account-power-outages-89232 Illinois House passes electricity rates increase http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-house-passes-electricity-rates-increase-87203 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-30/71475109.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois House approved a plan Monday to upgrade the state's power grid that would also result in higher electric bills.</p><p>Long negotiations resulted in various changes to the measure as time has gone on, but one thing is for sure: Commonwealth Edison customers and a majority of those served by Ameren will pay more. The utilities estimate customers will pay about $3 a month more, with the promise of eventual savings down the road.</p><p>The money would be used to improve infrastructure and help create a "smart grid," which is touted as a more efficient system. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, said it's an idea whose time has come.</p><p>"This is the time to make sure our state is in a position to attract jobs of the future and have a grid ready to accept the inventions we know are on the way," McCarthy said.</p><p>But not everyone is sold on the need. Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, said it will hit constituents in the pocketbook.</p><p>"At a time when people are sitting at their kitchen tables trying to figure out how to make ends meet," Flowers said.</p><p>Both Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn oppose the plan as well. While it passed the House, the measure failed to get the super-majority support it would need to override a veto from the governor, which could doom the plan.</p></p> Mon, 30 May 2011 18:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-house-passes-electricity-rates-increase-87203 Madigan mad again at ComEd http://www.wbez.org/story/madigan-mad-again-comed-86739 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-18/madigan hb 14.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is joining the chorus of voices opposed to House Bill 14. The bill proposes upgrading state utilities to create a so-called "smart grid."</p><p>Power companies claim modernizing will protect against outages and save consumers money down the line. For now it would mean higher ComEd bills. But Madigan argues there's already a fair system in place that ComEd should use to make necessary improvements.</p><p>She says ComEd "actually wants a guaranteed profit where they don't have to go through a system to get it. They want to go directly into your wallet. They don't want to have to prove what they did was reasonable or fair. They just want your money."</p><p>Madigan says as the bill is written, utility companies could increase rates before getting the state's approval and there's no cap on how high rates could rise.</p><p>ComEd spokeswoman Alicia Zatkowski said a revised bill is in the works and should be finalized by the end of this week. She says the new bill would eliminate automatic rate increases and addresses other complaints.</p><p>In a statement released by ComEd in the wake of complaints, the company concluded, "The bottom line is this: the grid needs to be modernized now. We cannot afford to wait. Other states are on the move, and we need to get moving."</p></p> Thu, 19 May 2011 10:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/madigan-mad-again-comed-86739