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Downstate Illinois Most Vulnerable for Summer Blackouts

National survey finds that Southern Illinois is one of the most vulnerable regions of the U.S. for energy blackouts this summer. The 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment, published by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, tracks all of the electrical grid regions of the 48 continental United States to track their possession of spare generating capacity. Northern Illinois is served by the PJM grid, of which Exelon/ComEd is a local affiliate, and has substantial spare capacity at this time. Although electric bills will continue to go up throughout this region, power (much of it generated by nuclear and gas-fired power plants) will be available.

By contrast, Southern Illinois and much of Central Illinois are served by the power-short Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid. This electrical grid, which also covers much of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, traditionally generates much of its power from coal-fired power plants. Many plant owners within this grid, including the owners of coal-fired power plants traditionally owned by local utility Ameren, have shut down or are shutting down their coal-fired power plants. The Reliability Assessment identifies an electrical capacity shortfall of 1,230 megawatts (MW) within the MISO grid area. The Assessment identifies the likelihood that, in heat waves centering during the month of July, power distributors within this area may have to buy electricity off the grid for spiked prices, which they will pass along to their customers. In extreme circumstances, some of the distributor s within the MISO grid area may have to engage in what is euphemistically called “load shedding,” which means that peak load power demand is shed off by blacking out a portion of a service area.

The Illinois House held a joint hearing last week to hear testimony on the soaring electric bills of Central and Southern Illinois, and the possible approaching power crisis in that region. The Illinois House hearing was held on Thursday, May 27.

Price of gas has topped $5 a gallon in most of Illinois. The record-high landmark average price was posted after a new inflationary spiral affected prices for all sorts of goods throughout the United States. Gas prices are monitored by AAA, which generates lists of average prices for each state. A profile of the issue published on Tuesday, May 31 by the Center Square noted that Illinois was the only state east of the Mississippi River to top the dismal $5/gallon mark. Several high-tax states west of the Mississippi, headed by California, also reached this painful mark.

A typical “basket” of household expenses costs $2,000 more per year in 2022 than in 2021 because of the price of motor fuel alone, independently of other prices that are also shooting up. The average American household paid $2,800 for motor fuel in 2021, and will pay at least $4,800 in 2022.


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