Bet You’ll Turn Off Those Unused Lights Now

October 27, 2011

Sorry, Chicago real estate owners and renters: Looks like your electric bills are going up.

The Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday voted to override Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s veto of utility-hike legislation.

The Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act will upgrade the Commonwealth Edison, and downstate Ameren, power grids, but it will also open the door for the utility companies to raise electricity rates each year for the next 10 years.

Chicago residents have had to live by candlelight during power outages. With smart grid technology, candles should be needed only to save money on electricity.

Residential ComEd customers can expect to pay about $3 more per month on their electric bills; Ameren bills will go up about $3.40 a year.

While no one wants to pay a penny more for anything in this tough economy, think of all the food this could save: The $2.6 billion project, which would modernize the power grid and storm-proof the transmission system, should lead to less power outages during inclement weather, something we dealt with in droves this summer.

Apparently it works: Outages over the summer were avoided in portions of Oak Park, where there is already smart grid technology.

After Governor Quinn vetoed the original legislation, the utility company created a trailer bill that toughens utility performance standards, lowers the allowed return on equity and establishes a fund to assist low-income families, seniors and disabled veterans with their bills. The move unimpressed the Governor.

“Hours before veto session begins, ComEd and Ameren have dropped a “trailer” bill that they claim would be a better bill for the people of Illinois. Unfortunately, this movie still has the same unhappy ending: blockbuster annual rate hikes for consumers and businesses,” said Quinn. “This bill still guarantees annual rate hikes every year for the next ten years. This bill still guarantees annual profits for utilities at the expense of hard working families and businesses, which will cost jobs.

“Businesses, homes and families will see their electricity bills go up each year for the next 10 years as result of this bill. Legislators have a choice – they can listen to the people of Illinois who’ve clearly spoken out against this bill or they can listen to the fairy tales being spun by the two big utilities.”

Let’s hope the touted benefits of the modernization project make the increase in bills worth it.

Officials say the project will:

*Create more than 2,500 statewide jobs.

*Lead to a cleaner environment.

*Result in the “undergrounding” of overhead lines, something that should help stop the outages.

Now, the bill needs override votes from the Illinois House and Senate. Then, the project will most likely begin in January and take 10 years to complete.

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