By Illinois Radio Network
WASHINGTON – A central Illinois congressman has proposed legislation that would offer tax credits for investments in existing nuclear power plants across the county.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, is behind a bill that would provide a 30-percent credit for refueling costs and capital expenditures at plants through 2021.
“Right now about 51 percent of the electricity in Illinois is generated from nuclear plants,” LaHood said. “When you look at some of the federal tax credits that have been in place in the past and currently for things like solar and wind, we looked at nuclear energy and wanted to make sure they are staying competitive in our ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy.”
After 2021, the tax credit rate would be gradually reduced until it reached 10 percent in 2024. LaHood said the bill is modeled on the phase out currently in place for solar and wind. Future energy needs necessitate a strong nuclear industry, he said.
“In the last 17 months, we’ve added 240,000 new manufacturing jobs in this country,” LaHood said. “We’re revving back up the industrial manufacturing base in this country. There will be a lot of energy use that goes on, and that will help drive nuclear energy and the use of electricity across the board.”
Illinois lawmakers also have moved to help stabilize the nuclear power industry in the state. In 2016, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that included a rate increase to help pay for the modernization of both the Clinton Nuclear Generating Station and the Quad Cities Nuclear Generating Station in Cordova.
“Illinois is home to six nuclear plants, which support about 6,000 jobs,” LaHood said. “I’m concerned about the state of Illinois, but this is a nationwide approach. When you think about having a broad, diversified energy portfolio across the country, we [need to] make sure everyone is being treated equally.”
Competing companies in other sectors of the energy industry, including coal plants, previously have criticized various subsidies to the nuclear industry saying the practice is akin to playing favorites and acts to distort the market. Some argue it also depresses development of more competitive evergy sources and limits potential job creation in those areas.
LaHood said his legislation would help keep Illinois a top choice for manufacturing.
“You have cheap energy and it’s reliable and there are good grids,” LaHood said. “Illinois is a great place to do that. The future looks bright. Having abundant and diversified energy available will be helpful.”
LaHood said the bill had 11 co-sponsors. He’s hoping for a hearing date to be set soon.