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Environment group calls Ameren's revised efficiency plan 'insufficient'

Ameren Illinois Co. revised its four-year energy efficiency plan to achieve an 8.95% energy savings target by 2021, which is higher than a previous recommendation of 8.84% but still shy of the target set by the state's energy law.

"Ameren's efficiency plan remains disappointingly insufficient and will not provide the savings its customers deserve," the Environmental Defense Fund's spokesperson Catherine Ittner said in an email Oct. 12. "We hope the [Illinois Commerce] Commission will consider our application for rehearing and make Ameren meet the efficiency goals it originally committed to."

The Ameren Corp. subsidiary proposed a plan in August that met resistance from various stakeholders for suggesting lower targets each year from 2018 to 2021 than those contained in the Future Energy Jobs Act, or FEJA, adopted by Illinois in 2016. The Act requires Ameren to conserve 9.8% of its energy use by 2021. The lower targets led to pushback from EDF, Natural Resources Defense Council, a consumer advocate organization called the Citizens Utility Board, and state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Under the FEJA, utilities can propose lower targets under certain conditions, one of which is if the plan cannot achieve the mandated targets cost-effectively. (ICC Docket No. 17-0311)

Budgetary limits

In prior testimony, Jones Day attorney Mark DeMonte, who represents Ameren Illinois, argued that the mandated targets could not be cost-effectively achieved in part because of limits the law placed on how much Ameren can spend on measures and programs to achieve them. DeMonte also referred to analysis conducted by the Applied Energy Group, a consultancy that found it unlikely and unrealistic for Ameren Illinois to achieve the stipulated targets and stay within the budgetary limits of the FEJA, according to an Aug. 18 brief.

The Illinois Commerce Commission in a Sept. 11 order allowed Ameren to lower its energy savings targets but required revisions to the initial plan to stay consistent with the terms of the order. In particular, the commission ordered Ameren to achieve additional savings each year of between 10,500MWh to 14,500 MWh, according to the order. Under the plan, Ameren Illinois would save another 12,043 MWh per year on average from 2018 to 2021, the company said in a release.

On Oct. 6, the NRDC, EDF and Citizens Utility Board jointly applied for a rehearing of the Illinois Commerce Commission's September order, arguing that it was not based on substantial evidence. Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office on Oct. 12 also petitioned for a rehearing.

FEJA requires the state's two major utilities, Ameren and Commonwealth Edison Co., to detail and file their plans to achieve the efficiency targets in the next four years. The four-year plans filed this year would take effect Jan. 1, 2018. ComEd, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., did not have to revise its plan because the goals proposed were consistent with those in the FEJA and received consensus approval from stakeholders. Under the FEJA, Exelon has to achieve an 11.8% savings target by 2021 that rises to 21.5% by 2030, according to the commission's Sept. 11 order.