Commission rejects rate hikes, grid plan from Illinois’ largest electric utilities



(The Center Square) – It is back to the drawing board for Illinois’ two largest electric utilities after their proposed rate hikes and grid plans were shot down.

The Illinois Commerce Commission rejected plans submitted by Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison on how the companies would comply with the state’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.

“The Commission’s decisions today protect Illinois ratepayers and the goals CEJA created. Illinois’ utilities are specifically required to consider affordability and cost-effectiveness so that customers are not unfairly asked to shoulder undue costs tied to the state’s energy transition,” said ICC Chairman Doug Scott.

A spokesman for Ameren Illinois said the company is disappointed in the ICC’s ruling.

“Ameren Illinois’ plan was the result of a transparent two-year regulatory process with significant and unprecedented input from stakeholders, including the ICC’s own expert staff,” said Matt Tomc, vice president for Regulatory Policy and Energy Supply, in a statement to The Center Square. “It meets the statutory requirements of the state’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. It ensures that the electric grid is safe, secure, and reliable for the millions of downstate Illinois homes and businesses that depend on it, while also facilitating achievement of the state’s clean energy goals. We are continuing to carefully evaluate the order to determine our response.”

The proposals were intended to show how the utilities planned to meet decarbonization requirements under CEJA while ensuring electric rates remain affordable for low-income communities.

Both utilities failed to sufficiently incorporate customer affordability into their proposals and the commission’s decisions found that their grid plans did not outline how 40% of plan benefits will be directed to low-income and environmental justice communities, among other shortcomings.

“The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act isn’t supposed to be a cash cow for utilities, it’s meant to benefit everyone and be affordable for everyone,” said Jim Chilsen, communications director with the Citizens Utility Board.

Numerous groups, including nonprofits, advocacy organizations and industry representatives throughout the state participated in the regulatory process and scrutinized how much Ameren and ComEd expect to spend on the grid. The group is collectively called the Joint Non-Governmental Organizations and consists of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council and Vote Solar.

The latest ruling comes on the heels of the ICC slashing rate hike requests by as much as 50% from the state’s gas utilities, including Nicor and Peoples Gas.

Chilsen believes the ICC appears to be standing up for consumers more.

“These last two rulings, the gas ruling in November and the electric rulings have been unprecedented in how the ICC stood up for consumers,” said Chilsen.

Both utilities are now required to file an updated grid plan within three months of the final order.

“We look forward to engaging with the utilities and stakeholders constructively to address all the issues identified by the Commission in the upcoming proceedings to develop plans that are fully compliant with CEJA,” said Will Kenworthy, senior regulatory director with Vote Solar.

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