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Illinois utilities pushing to control power line construction while others warn of a monopoly

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(The Center Square) – Legislation that would give the state’s largest utilities control over the construction of power lines in Illinois is back in the spotlight.

A bill that would allow Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison the right-of-refusal on what company was awarded the construction contract for power lines was the subject of a House Public Utilities Committee hearing Tuesday.

Patrick Evans, president of the Illinois Energy Association, said a right-to-first refusal law is good for the state.

“A local utility, to hold competitive bids, so that we build a transmission, using trusted suppliers and trusted workers here in Illinois,” said Evans.

Jack Darin, Illinois director of the Sierra Club, said competition for the construction of power lines brings down costs for the consumer.

“Just like we have competition in our energy supply part of our energy economy could result in energy savings, lower bills for customers and therefore potential resources for the other investments that we need to make,” said Darin.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an amendatory veto on similar legislation last year, saying competition is important.

“We want to keep costs down for our customers across the state and having a competitive environment helps do that,” said Pritzker.

At least a dozen states have adopted right-of-first refusal laws, including Indiana and Iowa, but the idea has been rejected in Missouri and Kansas.

Southwest Power Pool’s board of directors recently awarded NextEra Energy Transmission Southwest, LLC a new competitively-bid electricity project that the Electricity Transmission Competition Coalition said will provide millions in cost savings to families and businesses in New Mexico.

“Due to the project being competitively awarded, project savings to customers are $84 million with additional voluntary cost containment protections and schedule guarantees for SPP customers,” said NextEra Energy in a statement.

Ameren has testified in other states considering similar legislation that the competitive bidding process leads to delays and cost overruns.

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