There is currently a battlefor electricity rates in Illinois; the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), a nonprofit utility watchdog organization created by the state legislature, has called on state lawmakers to roll back the increases recently imposed by utilities, ComEd and Ameren. The rate increases took effect Jan. 2, 2007, after the decade-long state rate freeze expired in December 2006.

“Many customers [are] reporting their electric bills have doubled and even tripled,” said David Kolata, CUB executive director, and CUB claims to have data that shows the rate increases will cause the loss of more than 20,000 jobs.

According to data produced by ComEd and Ameren, the combined rate increases will cost consumers $2.3 billion. The CUB study, conducted in conjunction with Synapse Energy Economics Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., uses the results of an economic model to calculate the effects of such an economic transfer on state employment. The model shows Illinois will lose one job for every $116,121 in higher electricity prices, resulting in a loss of approximately 20,431 jobs across the state.

Kolata noted both utilities posted record profits under the old rates. In 2005, Exelon, the parent company of ComEd, earned a record $2.1 billion, while Ameren posted record profits of $628 million. However, both companies reported a slight drop in net income in 2006.

ComEd has issued a warning that the rate increases are necessary to prevent future service interruptions and that if CUB’s proposed freeze extension is accepted, ComEd predicts consumers may pay more in the end.

“The rate increases ComEd customers are now seeing are consistent with the information we shared many months ago,” said Barry Mitchell, ComEd president. “We’ve been telling our customers for more than a year that, following a decade-long rate freeze, rates would increase by 15 to 25 percent.” ComEd’s rates have increased 24 percent.

Ameren has reissued a press release from July 2006, justifying its increase as being its first in 20 years. Ameren reports a decrease of 6 percent since 2002, while the national average rose 11 percent. For the current increase, the utility shows an average of 18 percent with a limit on residential rates to a 10 percent increase.

CUB has appealed the increase before the Illinois Appellate Court, and CUB is urging the Illinois General Assembly to roll back the rate hikes and freeze prices at last year’s level.

CUB has also launched the Don’t Get Shocked action campaign to rally support for the rate freeze. The campaign is asking consumers to contact their state legislatures and oppose the rate hikes and to attend a new round of public hearings being held across the state by the Illinois State Senate.             EC