Robert Ray/Associated Press Exelon’s nuclear plant in Byron, Ill. Company officials say its relationship with the Obama administration reflects a shared vision of moving the nation toward a cleaner energy future.
Early in the Obama administration, a lobbyist for the Illinois-based energy producer Exelon Corporation proudly called it “the president’s utility.” And it was not just because it delivers power to Barack Obama’s Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago.
Exelon’s top executives were early and frequent supporters of Mr. Obama as he rose from the Illinois State Senate to the White House. John W. Rogers Jr., a friend of the president’s and one of his top fund-raisers, is an Exelon board member. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s longtime political strategist, once worked as an Exelon consultant, and Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor and Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff, helped create the company through a corporate merger in 2000 while working as an investment banker.
With energy an increasingly pivotal issue for the Obama White House, a review of Exelon’s relationship with the administration shows how familiarity has helped foster access at the upper reaches of government and how, in some cases, the outcome has been favorable for Exelon.
In addition, Exelon, which provides power to more than 6.6 million customers in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia, was chosen as one of only six electric utilities nationwide for the maximum $200 million stimulus grant from the Energy Department. And when the Treasury Department granted loans for renewable energy projects, Exelon landed a commitment for up to $646 million allowing it, on extremely generous financial terms, to finance one of the world’s largest photovoltaic solar projects.
When Exelon’s PECO subsidiary emerged from hundreds of applicants as one of six companies to win the maximum $200 million stimulus grant, Energy Secretary Steven Chu went to Philadelphia to announce the award. Exelon is using the money to install new “smart meters” for its Philadelphia-area customers, cutting the price tag for a project it was already planning. (A second grant application Exelon submitted for its Chicago utility did not succeed.)
Separately, the Treasury Department has approved a $646 million loan, guaranteed by the Energy Department, to help Exelon build a 230-megawatt solar project now under construction in Los Angeles County. The project, which it recently bought just as construction was beginning, is so heavily subsidized by federal and local governments that Exelon expects it will be reimbursed for all its upfront money by 2015.
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