Commonwealth Edison is seeking an electricity rate hike of about 7 percent, a move quickly met with skepticism from consumer advocates.
ComEd’s proposal, filed Wednesday with the Illinois Commerce Commission would add less than $6 per month to the average residential monthly bill of $86, the company said in a statement. Any approved new rates would not take effect until June 2011. The utility said it would use the money to modernize its grid by investing in technology that reduces the duration and number of power outages. The rate hike would also “recover the cost of substantial investments made since the last rate filing in 2007,” the company said.
ICC approval for the rate hike is an 11-month process. After the last filing in 2007, in which ComEd asked for $361 million, regulators ultimately approved a $270 million increase that added $4.50 in delivery charges to a typical customer’s monthly bill. The Citizens Utility Board is seeking to overturn that rate hike and the issue is still working its way through the courts on appeal.
CUB Executive Director David Kolata said his group hasn’t yet reviewed ComEd’s latest filing, but plans to hire experts to examine the document “line by line” and will “challenge any rate hike they can’t justify.”
“Certainly, past practice suggests that they’re almost certainly asking for more than they can justify,” Kolata said. “How much more, we don’t know.”
Earlier this month, CUB introduced an online tool called the Energy Saver that links to a customer’s ComEd bill to track savings and reward reductions in energy usage with points that can be redeemed for gift certificates. CUB said its pilot program, which covered 3,000 consumers, saved participants $200 annually and awarded points toward gift certificates averaging $130 a year.
ComEd rolled out a similar program last week, installing “smart meters” in 10 communities covering 131,000 customers. Participants in this pilot program can track their daily power usage online and compete against their neighbors on efficient electricity consumption.
AARP Illinois, however, expressed doubts that the smart meter program was a good use of money.
“These ’smart meters’ are another example of unproven technology that customers are being forced to pay for at a time when many are struggling,” Scott Musser, the associate state director for AARP Illinois, said in a statement. He urged the ICC to carefully review ComEd’s most recent rate request.
Musser also noted that ComEd and its parent company, Exelon, had proposed paying the state $500 million upfront in exchange for a four-year freeze on residential and small-business electricity rates. The proposal was hastily withdrawn amid skepticism from both lawmakers and consumer groups such as the AARP.
“It is certainly ironic that the utility company was willing to give the state $500 million several months ago and is now asking for a $396 million rate increase,” Musser said.