Monopolies are a bad thing if you listen to most capitalists. Except when you supply public services like supplying electricity or natural gas. OK so then everyone agrees that those companies need CLOSE regulation to make sure they do not cheat. Well not quite everybody.
By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Ameren Illinois electric customers would pay an additional $5 a year — less than 50 cents a month more — so the utility can upgrade electric and gas delivery under a plan being considered by state lawmakers. State Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Mount Sterling, is concerned about those higher rates. She is researching the proposed legislation that would allow the rate increase and permit utilities to adjust their rates each year under a different regulatory system. “I think it’s very much a work in progress. We have been having public hearings, and I’m not sure how the bill will end up,” Tracy said of HB 14. As a member of the House Public Utilities Committee, Tracy attended a Tuesday hearing on the rate hike and the regulatory issue. “I don’t want to see bills rise, but there’s no doubt we need to improve the grid,” Tracy said. The $5 annual charge for each Ameren Illinois customers would improve delivery systems for the electric system and the gas system. “These investments will provide significant benefits to the state of Illinois and our energy customers, and will allow Ameren Illinois to provide the safe, reliable and affordable service our customers expect,” said Craig Nelson, Ameren senior vice president.
Thursday (Mar 17) was the deadline for legislation in both the Illinois House and Senate to move out of committee. While some legislation may receive extended deadlines, most proposals that don’t meet the Thursday deadline will not move further. Check out IEC’s legislative tracker to determine which bills have not yet moved out of committee.
Last week, on March 10, the House Public Utilities Committee and Senate Energy Committee held a joint subject matter hearing on HB14, a proposal from ComEd. HB14 would change the way ComEd and Ameren are regulated. It would allow them to receive automatic rate increases if they invested in both the existing grid and in smart grid technology. At the hearing, ComEd suggested that this rate increase would be about $3/month for each customer, in addition to any normal rate increases.
David Kolata, Citizens Utility Board executive director and IEC board member, expressed concern at the hearing that this legislation would give consumers the “bill without the benefits.” Smart grid technology uses digital two way communications with a consumer’s home. Smart grid done right should increase energy efficiency, lower bills for consumers, and otherwise prepare for a clean energy future. As written, HB14 does not include any renewable energy or energy efficiency provisions.
On the same day as this hearing, Exelon CEO John Rowe was quoted by Crain’s as saying, “Smart grid we are reluctant to embrace, because it costs too much and we’re not sure what good it will do.” Exelon owns ComEd. Read more in Crain’s about this disconnect between the discussion of smart grid technology that occurred Mar 8th and comments by Exelon’s CEO.