Automatic electric utility rate increases would come to an end under a comprehensive energy policy that Gov. JB Pritzker will propose today.


Dubbed "Putting Consumers and Climate First," the 57-point plan covers transparency and ethics issues of utilities, renewable energy and promotion of electric transportation and a focus on energy efficiency.


The plan renews Pritzker’s goal of making Illinois 100% clean energy by 2050, something the governor made one of his campaign goals in 2018.


Working groups meeting to formulate energy legislation were shut down after Commonwealth Edison entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors over allegations it gave contracts and jobs to associates of House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, to curry favor with the powerful political leader. The company was charged with one count of bribery, a charge that will be dropped in three years if the utility cooperates with investigators. It has agreed to pay a $200 million fine.


"The governor felt it was necessary to do a hard reset following the allegation we’d seen, to clean the slate and to make sure that whatever we do going forward would have some credibility with ratepayers and taxpayers in Illinois," said Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell.


Mitchell said the plan is to restart working groups in the next week or two to further discuss details of a new energy policy. The principles laid out in the governor’s plan will be the basis for restarting those discussions.


Pritzker’s plan covers eight major areas, the centerpiece of which, Mitchell said, is "utility accountability." A key to that is eliminating formula rates that set rates automatically. Eliminating them would require utilities to once again have to make a case to the Illinois Commerce Commission for rate changes.


Other provisions would prohibit companies from recovering the cost of charitable contributions from ratepayers and beef up requirements to disclose communications between utilities and regulators.


The proposal calls for ComEd and Ameren to double their annual commitment to low-income energy efficiency programs and to eliminate any fees for online payment of utility bills.


Mitchell said the plan gives emphasis to promoting renewable energy such as wind and solar "by giving them more regulatory certainty on where they can locate." That includes setting statewide standards for wind and solar developments while leaving local governments in charge of permitting and final approval. The proposal acknowledges that local regulations have blocked many wind energy projects.


Mitchell said the idea is to provide renewable energy providers some certainty to keep them from a situation "where effectively you’re going to have 150 different zoning fights on totally different planes ... about the same issue. That means your transaction cost for trying to do business in the state of Illinois is just too high."


The plan is also aimed at trying to make Illinois "the best place to manufacture and drive an electric vehicle," Mitchell said.


"We want to make sure we are sending the market signal to folks like Rivian and other companies that might want to come here that Illinois is going to be the place you want to do business," Mitchell said.


Among other things, the plan calls for establishing a tax credit to lure electric vehicle makers to downstate Illinois and providing incentives to build electric charging stations.


Mitchell said the plan pulls together some ideas from other energy proposals like the Clean Energy Jobs Act while also incorporating additional ideas not necessarily addressed by those proposals.


Mitchell said the goal is to have the working groups finish their work "relatively expeditiously" so that there is time to hold legislative hearings on the proposed energy policy and give people an opportunity to weigh in on it before the Legislature considers it.


"If we can do all of those things in advance of November, we’d be excited to move," Mitchell said. "The governor talked about this in his State of the State earlier this year as a priority for this year."


Contact Doug Finke: doug.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr