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Published on December 11th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci

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Chicago Quits Coal, Cuts Electricity Bills



Everyone knows quitting coal saves millions in externalities like healthcare, but what about when quitting coal also saves millions for utility ratepayers?

The city of Chicago recently showed how moving past coal can achieve both ideal outcomes, by inking a unique power supply deal with the utility Constellation that sources municipal demand exclusively from non-coal generation facilities.

But best of all, the two-year deal will actually cut Chicago’s utility bills by hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, adding quantifiable benefits to the esoteric environmental and climate impacts of cutting coal consumption.

Chicago goes green

Chicago goes green image via Shutterstock

Coal-Free Chicago City Buildings

Under the deal Constellation will supply all power demand for 450 facilities in the city’s Fleet and Facility Management portfolio, including every one of Chicago’s city libraries, police, and fire stations; municipal buildings like City Hall and the Cultural Center; both O’Hare and Midway airports, and all of the city’s street and traffic lights.

Despite escalating transmission and tariff costs across the region, Chicago will wind up paying 2% less for coal-free power ($42.67 per megawatt-hour annualized), and will save an estimated $1.2 million in electricity prices over the contract duration.

Quitting Coal Through Competitive Electricity Markets

All these benefits were made possible by Chicago bundling up demand from multiple facilities and requesting bids for that demand on a competitive electricity market, similar to the way Cincinnati went coal-free in 2012 and the way Pittsburgh can buy 100% renewables 10% cheaper than standard utility rates.

“Through the success of the municipal aggregation program, the City of Chicago has decreased its carbon footprint while delivering savings to residents and small businesses,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago’s municipal aggregation program was approved by City Council in 2012 and serves 750,000 electricity customers. The program has been credited with saving city ratepayers $26 million since February 2013 on their electricity bills.

Another Win In The War On Coal

To be clear, Chicago’s coal-cutting deal isn’t a win for renewable energy – all the power will be supplied by natural gas generators and nuclear power plants. But it is a major victory for clean air and the fight against climate change, and shows once again that the “war on coal” is being waged – and won – by market forces and demand.

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.



  • David Hollingsworth

    Clean energy is great! But as of yet it is still impractical economically. This article and the deal Chicago has with Integrys Energy Services (referred to as Constellation in the article) is a liberal “eco-war” tactic intended to kill fossil fuel utilities and trick people into thinking that energy costs will be reduced by a cluster of energy-producing technologies that have proven to be economically unfeasible. It is a total sham and the politicians know it! Will energy costs decrease in 2014 for the City of Chicago? Absolutely not! There was an article in Crane’s Chicago Business dated May 18, 2013 that everybody interested in the subject should read. All utility rates – across the board – will be going up substantially in 2014. This will include ComEd as well as all non-fossil fuel electric energy sources transmitted over the grid infrastructure, which is all of them. Then there is the entire political scheme that the subject contract points to. Study the origin, make-up and agenda of the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission that was created in 2006 in the aftermath of an electric utility hike by ComEd. It has been a corrupt government-business agenda-driven committee from it’s inception. And, now it is 100% under the control of the left wing alternative energy eco-thugs. It is alleged to be a non-political entity. It is in reality, anything but that. All anyone needs to consider is who makes up the executive committee and what is their political history. Here is just one example… Ms. Sunny Chico. Ms. Chico owns SPC Consulting, an educational consulting firm that was hired by the City of Chicago, one of the most politically corrupt cities in the country, in a very controversial no-bid contract based purely on political cronyism. Care to guess who one of the members of the Executive Ethics Committee is? Yep, Ms. Chico. This is one small example of the systemic political corruption in Chicago, which includes environment-related matters, and that definitely involves fossil fuel energy. It is all a scam, folks. As always in politics, understand who the players are, what their agenda is, and follow the money. We are all pawns in the political game.

  • Senlac

    Does any one know how much actual renewables Illinois has in it’s renewable standard.

  • JMin2020

    Thanks for the post Silvio. Great Story. Nothing like clean energy.

  • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

    Thanks, Silvio. Appreciate your timeliness on these stories! :D

  • Steeple

    Alternate title; Chicago switches to natural gas to reduce cost and emissions

    • Bob_Wallace

      With the sub-title: Chicago buys up a lot of 2 cent wind and dials back the gas.

      • Steeple

        Works for me

    • guest

      Natural gas and nuclear, just like Ottawa.

      • Steeple

        Perhaps you know of some new nuclear capacity being built in the Chicago area. I must have missed that.

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