ComEd padding utility bills, court rules

By Julie Wernau
Posted Oct. 1, 2010 at 7:23 p.m.

Commonwealth Edison has been padding customer bills to pay for improvements that are properly the utility’s burden, according to a Second District Appellate Court decision that could mean lowered utility bills for consumers.

The decision, handed down Friday, overturns a 2008 decision by the Illinois Commerce Commission that allowed the utility to pass on the costs associated with creating a “smart grid” to consumers, including a recently launched program to test smart meters as part of itsĀ  “innovation corridor.”

“At a time when people are struggling financially, this is an excellent decision for consumers,” said state Attorney General Lisa Madigan who opposed ComEd’s request for a $360 million rate increase in 2008. “This decision sets a precedent for all other utilities who’ve passed on their high operating costs, but not their savings, to consumers. The court’s ruling ensures consumers throughout our state are paying for the true cost of electricity service; not just paying for the increases in the cost of doing business, but also sharing in the savings.”

The utility said the decision puts “ComEd and the Illinois region at a distinct disadvantage to other states in terms of efforts to build a 21st century electric grid.”

The company also said the decision would put the smart grid pilot in jeopardy.

In 2008, ComEd argued that the proposed increase was to offset higher construction costs as it builds a more efficient and reliable network. But the Citizens Utility Board and the state attorney general’s office argued to the Illinois Commerce Commission that the utility wanted a higher profit margin and encouraged the five-member ICC to cut the proposed increase by 90 percent.

“This ruling potentially impedes technological investments in our electric system by eliminating a reasonable means of cost recovery and a mechanism for delivering value to our customers,” ComEd said in a statement.

ICC acting Chairman Manuel Flores declined comment, and ICC staff members were not available to comment. ComEd did not say Friday night whether the utility planned to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.


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