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Illinois residents gaining incentives to compare

A recent proposal that would lead to new investment in Illinois utility company Ameren's electrical grid, and to raise electricity prices to help pay for it, has spurred officials to remind residents they still have the right to compare electricity rates, according to the Bureau County Republican.

The new investments were approved in a plan submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission would allow Ameren to put $625 million into improving its electrical system. This has been a topic of major discussion in Illinois with the recent passage of a bill supporting the development of a smart grid in the state.

However, the plan would lead to the average Ameren customer paying an additional $2.80 per month in electricity bill.

Some of this cost is unavoidable, since Ameren charges a certain amount for delivery itself, but officials noted that Illinois residents can purchase the electricity itself from retail electricity providers, often at lower electricity prices.

"Selecting an electricity supplier is similar to purchasing an automobile insurance policy," Stan Ogden, vice president of Ameren Illinois customer service and public relations, told the news source. "You begin by shopping various companies and getting quotes that are based on your individual and family needs. You compare the quotes and make your decision based on what is best for you."

According to the ICC, more than 28,000 customers received their power from alternative electricity providers in November of last year, up from 125 in June 2010.