Legislation introduced by state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, would extend the date by which smart grid formula rates are to expire from 2017 to 2019. The bill is a major priority of Ameren Illinois, the electric utility for most of downstate Illinois.
Consumers face $1.5 billion in potential rate-hike fights in 2015, including major battles with ComEd-parent Exelon and AT&T in one of the most important Springfield legislative sessions in years.
“Every legislative session is key to our utility bills, but it’s rare that we have to fight so many giants at once,” CUB Board President Robert Craig Neff said. “Energy and telecom lobbyists are invading Springfield, and they want to jack up your bills.”
Here’s a rundown of what consumers face in 2015:
$300 million Central/Southern Illinois rate hike: Coal-plant operator Dynegy reportedly wants Ameren to join an East Coast power grid that could jack up electricity rates by an estimated $300 million in Central and Southern Illinois.
Dynegy sells power to Ameren in a power grid called the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. To boost profits, Dynegy has indicated it wants Ameren to switch to a more expensive power grid operator, PJM Interconnection, which serves customers in Northern Illinois and the East Coast.
$580 million Exelon boost: ComEd’s parent company, which has made $20 billion in profits in the last decade, wants to boost revenue by up to $580 million at the expense of consumers.
Campaign to save low-cost home phone service: AT&T and Frontier want complete phone deregulation, a move that could strip millions of customers, including some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, of the most affordable and reliable home phone service in Illinois.
In 2015, with the Illinois Telecommunications Act up for review, the companies want to end the “obligation to serve” requirement, which would allow them to abandon areas deemed “unprofitable.” AT&T also is pushing to kill the CUB-created Consumer’s Choice plans, low-cost phone deals that have saved consumers an estimated $10 million.
In addition to these Springfield battles, CUB is juggling a case to capture a $200 million Nicor Gas refund, a challenge of $400 million in new 2015 ComEd and Ameren delivery rate hikes and a $107 million rate-hike request from Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas.