As some Chicago suburbs are seeking cheaper, aggregated electricity rates for residents, the current option for many, ComEd, is hoping to hike its rates three percent and get an annual increase.
Crain's Chicago Business reported Wednesday that an administrative law judge for the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is recommending granting ComEd a $166 million increase in the rates it charges to deliver electricity to Northern Illinois homes and businesses, which is about three percent. That's about half ComEd's revised request of $326 million, but well over the $103 million recommended by the ICC staff.
The commission must vote on ComEd's request by May 24, and Crain's reports that some see it as good news for its parent company, Excelon Corp., which is facing revenue decline due to wholesale power prices.
The state deregulated the generation of electrical power in 1996, giving residents and the businesses the option to move from ComEd to lower-cost suppliers. And though about 76 percent of the commercial market has moved away from ComEd—saving about 15 percent on electricity bills in some cases—few residents have because suppliers could only offer an opt-in program.
Orland Park along with many other area suburbs partner with the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Cooperative to get these lower rates. Some in the area voted on a referendum in the April 5 election to allow municipalities to seek the lowest rates at an aggregated price and allow residents to opt out if they choose.
New Lenox, , joined 18 other Chicagoland municipalities out of 23 voting on similar referenda, and can enter an opt-out program in which all residential accounts within village limits would be moved to an electricity supplier of the village's choice. Voters in Oak Park also approved the referendum, and Darien narrowly defeated it in the April election.
Residents could have the option to stick with ComEd, but it's important to know that ComEd is currently only a distributor of electricity, not a provider.
If this rate hike is approved, though, all residents and municipalities would have to pay it because it's the charge for ComEd's services to deliver power and maintain the system. But NIMEC Director David Hoover said the municipalities and residents who do find lower rates might not be hit as hard by a rate increase.
"We're very hopeful the savings residents might see will more than offset a rate increase to ComEd," he said.
According to Crain's, ComEd and electric utility Ameren Corp. are lobbying state lawmakers to pass a bill that would let them to hike their rates each year under a formula. ComEd wants to invest $2.6 billion to upgrade underground cables and deploy smart meters in homes and businesses, and says it needs the regulatory certainty of formula rates to commit to the plan.