Even as Commonwealth Edison fights in Springfield for legislation that would set utility rates by formula and sharply undercut the authority of the Illinois Commerce Commission, at home, that same regulatory body is undercutting ComEd in its battles for rate increases.
Administrative law judges recommended that Commonwealth Edison Co. be allowed a rate increase of about 3 percent, or $166 million, less than half what the Chicago-based utility requested last June.
Regarding the surcharge, which would initially add about 25 cents to consumer’s bills, an administrative law judge wrote, “The Commission sees ComEd‘s various warnings regarding the need to have a cost recovery mechanism in place now, but we find that adopting a cost recovery mechanism at this point of the process would be premature.”
Arlana Johnson, spokesman for ComEd, said they were disappointed with the judge’s draft recommendation that the ICC disallow the utility from adding a surcharge to consumer’s bills, a proposal that opponents criticized as a way to circumvent the legislature.
“Customers want more choice and control of their energy costs, in addition to excellent system reliability. ComEd’s proposal is a way to provide them with these improvements now, when they need it the most. We believe we have proved our case for our proposal and the ICC will agree in the end,” she said.
It’s uncertain whether a second recommendation to cut ComEd’s request for a rate increase in half, will mollify consumers and their advocates who have lined up in opposition to ComEd’s request that would add about $5 to the average resident’s $86 monthly bill.
The Citizens Utility Board and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office are among those that have testified against the proposal.
The proposal sides with staff, the attorney general’s office and CUB in recommending that ComEd be denied the ability the ability to recover from ratepayers $72,000 in expenses related to game tickets and luxury box catering expenses because “they are not necessary for the provision of safe and reliable electric service.” The proposed order also concluded that ComEd’s proposed rate of return was too high.
“These rates should be permanently canceled and annulled,” states the proposed order, filed with the ICC April 1.
Arlana Johnson, spokeswoman for ComEd said “ComEd believes that we have proved our case for the full amount of our rate request. The (administrative law judges’) proposed order is preliminary and we will await the ICC’s final decision.”
The ICC is expected to make a final decision on the proposed rate increase by May 24 and a final decision about the surcharge by May 28. The proposed order on the rate case was first reported by Crain’s Chicago.
– By Mary Ellen Podmolik and Julie Wernau, Tribune staff reporters