An Illinois Senate panel approved rate increases for Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), amid controversy among customers that claim the utility is taking advantage of them. The bill is now set to go to full Senate vote. If approved, ComEd customers will see rate increases by about 40 cents per month in 2014 and increasing to 80 cents per month by 2017.
In May and October of 2012, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) twice enforced rates cuts on both ComEd and Ameren Illinois, attributing the cuts to 2011 smart-grid legislation that subsidized $2.6 billion in upgrades for ComEd’s electric grid over the next ten years. The Senate panel’s sponsor, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), claimed that the ICC had misinterpreted the legislation, and pushed for the restoration of funding.
In 2012, ComEd sought rate increases totaling $100 million but were shot down by the ICC. The current requested increases would total to $65-70 million. As stated by ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore, the funds would go towards “improving reliability by 20%, adding 2,000 jobs to the Illinois economy and creating other savings for customers.
The intention of the smart-grid legislation was to improve the reliability of the utility’s service, while at the same time creating savings for customers and jobs in the state. The implementation of the legislation has allowed the utility to install 470 smart switches, which have helped the utility avoid 82,000 interruptions in service in 2012 alone.
Critics argue that the utility in fact, not interested in pushing smart-grid improvements or the installation of smart meters. Rather, fingers are being pointed at ComEd that claim the utility is practicing corporate greed by trying to find ways to boost profits.
Of course, ComEd customers cannot avoid these extra charges if approved since they are distribution-related. Customers can, however, shop around for a retail electricity provider for the supply portion of their electric service.