SPRINGFIELD — One of the largest utility companies in Illinois, Ameren, is filing plans for electric and gas rate hikes.
The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) will review a request for a $160.4 million hike in gas rates over a year. There is an additional request that reflects a $435.6 million overall hike in electric rates over a period of four years.
Tucker Kennedy, Ameren Illinois communications director, stated last week that the reasons for the requests are multi-fold.
It, in part, stems from a requirement in the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), a green energy legislation package that will put Illinois on track to be fully carbon-free with its energy sources by 2050.
CEJA was passed through the legislature and signed by Gov. JB Pritzker in 2021. It requires electric utility companies like Ameren serving more than 500,000 retail customers to file a multi-year integrated grid plan for 2023 through 2027 with the ICC.
Kennedy states that the plan will allow Ameren to ensure the integrity of its grid in bouts of weather in either extremity while making preparations to transition to clean energy.
Concerns about higher bills when people are already struggling financially
Consumer groups like the Citizens Utility Board have every right to be concerned. The ICC approved a previous request from Ameren that resulted in the average customer paying a $52 increase in the supply side of the bill.
“This is awful news for Ameren customers who already were suffering under some of the highest electric and gas supply prices in Illinois history as well as earlier Ameren rate hikes,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said in a statement. “CUB will do a thorough review of Ameren’s rate cases. We will challenge every penny Ameren can’t justify.”
It is currently unknown how much higher the bills will be if ICC approves the new hike requests.
CUB, a nonpartisan non-profit advocating for residential utility customers, has been active in its opposition to the proposed rate hikes with two petitions for the ICC to reject the proposals.
Supply and demand among other crises factor into higher costs
Kennedy states that challenges with supply and demand in downstate Illinois are driving the increases. Other factors, including COVID-19, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and CEJA’s ongoing standard to shut down all coal power plants in the state also factor in.
“When you have high demand and supply is restrained, we’re seeing pretty significant increases in the cost of energy,” he said.
Ameren made a previous projection that energy costs were going to be 25% higher this winter. The utility company services roughly 75 percent of the state. They currently service 1.2 million electric and 816,000 natural gas customers throughout central and southern Illinois, according to its website.
Kennedy said a customer’s bill covers supply and delivery costs. Ameren does not profit from the increased rates. The utility is the energy delivery provider with the cost making up less than half of the typical monthly bill.
Ameren’s request will go through an 11-month ICC review including public comments before a decision in December.
The state of Illinois offers a low-income home energy assistance program to help households struggling to pay utility bills. Eligible customers have until May 31 or until funding runs out to apply.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.