Metro-East News

Citizens Utility Board pushing for electric rate refund for customers

The Citizens Utility Board is pushing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order refunds for electric customers in southern and central Illinois and is encouraging people to sign an online petition.

Refunds would stem from higher electricity rates, which were deemed not just and reasonable, for customers who receive their electricity through Ameren Illinois suppliers.

Last month FERC ordered a revision of Midcontinent Independent System Operator capacity auction provisions that led to downstate electric customers paying more than 42 times higher wholesale prices for electricity supply compared with other MISO territories.

Also in its order last month, FERC said that if a refund was ordered, the effective date would be May 28, 2015, the date of when the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed its complaint.

Craig Cano, a spokesman for FERC, said he could not speculate on when the commission would make a ruling on whether refunds would be ordered.

We’re hoping to get a refund first and the largest (refund) possible.

Jim Chilsen, spokesman for the Citizens Utility Board

Rates derived from the capacity auction did not apply to customers who receive electricity from an alternate supplier, either through municipal electrical aggregation programs or through individual fixed rate contracts.

Ameren Illinois only distributes electrical power, and passes on the cost of electricity supply to its customers without any markup. Ameren was quick to object to the results of the capacity auction and the electric rate hike and called for changes to the auction process.

The Citizens Utility Board did not have an estimate of how much a refund could be for the average residential customer, if FERC orders one.

CUB estimated because of the higher capacity auction results, the average customer would have paid $130 more a year in electricity bills.

“We’re trying to get the word out and get as many signatures as possible,” said CUB Spokesman Jim Chilsen. “We’re hoping to get a refund first and the largest (refund) possible.”

MISO didn’t immediately comment on the refund issue.

Marcelyn Love, an Ameren spokeswoman, said previous refunds to customers have been given in the form of credit in electricity bills.

“From the beginning, we urged federal regulators to provide our customers with relief from unnecessarily high capacity prices,” Ameren spokesman Brian Bretsch said. “We’re encouraged that not only will capacity prices will be more stable in the future, but also that FERC may compel MISO to provide refunds to our customers."

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

Sign the petition

To sign the Citizens Utility Board Petition for electric refunds, go to www.citizensutilityboard.org.

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