Metro-East News

Citizens Utility Board vows to review, challenge Ameren Illinois rate request

The Citizens Utility Board on Wednesday said it plans to challenge any unjustified spending and revenue as part of the review process of the proposed Ameren Illinois electricity delivery rate increase.

Last month, Ameren proposed a delivery rate increase to help pay for the ongoing costs of upgrading the electricity grid.

The proposed increase, which would bring in about $110 million to Ameren, could mean a $2 to $7 more a month in electricity bills for the typical residential customer who uses 10,000 kwh of electricity a year.

“With this situation, utility customers are tired of getting nickel and dimed; $2 to $7 is a lot for a consumer having a hard time making ends meet,” said Jim Chilsen, spokesman for the CUB.

The annual rate request is undergoing an eight-month review process by the Illinois Commerce Commission.

A decision by the ICC is expected in December, and a new rate would go into effect in January.

CUB, a consumer advocate, would weigh-in as part of the process.

“We will pour over all of these numbers, and do our best to reduce (the rate) as much as possible to make sure consumers are getting the best deal possible,” Chilsen said. “The goal is to weed out excessive and wasteful spending.”

Ameren expects to invest $122.2 million in Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act improvements this year. The 2011 law authorized both ComEd and Ameren to make improvements to its electricity delivery system and have consumers pay for the upgrades.

Chilsen said the CUB likes the idea of upgrading the power grid, but is against “exorbitant” rate hikes to pay for the work.

Marcelyn Love, spokeswoman for Ameren, defended the smart grid legislation. She said smart grid improvements have saved customers about $48 million each year, and have led to 238,000 fewer electricity interruptions.

“I find it interesting that a group that is adamantly against the smart grid, and has been fighting improvements it has been bringing to customers, has received grants funded by this legislation and funded by Illinois ratepayers,” Love said.

Ameren Illinois is allowed to recover its costs for maintaining and modernizing the system to ensure it is reliable. Delivery charges cover the costs of maintaining wires, poles and technology that distribute electricity to homes and businesses.

Contact reporter Joseph Bustos at jbustos@bnd.com or 618-239-2451. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeBReporter.

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