Ameren customers should see savings from new energy bill

Ameren customers should see savings from new energy bill

SPRINGFIELD — The typical Ameren Illinois residential customer will pay about $1.93 less per month for power after a far-reaching energy bill goes into effect June 1, 2017, according to an analysis of the Future Energy Jobs bill by the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Eventually, however, rates will start to increase beyond today's levels around 2023, according to the ICC model.

The energy bill, promoted for almost two years by Exelon Corp. to preserve its nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities, was approved by the Illinois Legislature on Thursday. The main feature of the measure is a subsidy of up to $235 million a year to keep the two nuclear plants open for at least 10 more years.

Among the legislation's other provisions is one that imposes a cap limiting increases in Ameren rates for the average customer in the residential-rate category to no more than 35 cents a month during the life of the legislation, which extends to 2030.

Rates for residential customers of Commonwealth Edison, which has about three times more customers than Ameren, are capped at an average of no more than 25 cents a month.

"Based on our analysis," said ICC Executive Director Cholly Smith, "we expect residential customer caps will reduce rates in the first few years and meet the goals of the legislation to limit increases throughout the life of the law. As an agency whose mission is to balance the interests of consumers and utilities, we stand ready to enforce these caps."

As Ameren officials told legislators in committee meetings last week, residential customers will see a savings on their bills in the first years of the legislation. It isn't until about five years into the measure's life, once many of its provisions are fully in force, that the typical residential customer should see an increase.

At the peak of higher rates in about 2026, the typical Ameren residential customer will pay about 90 cents more per month for electricity than today.

But by 2029 and 2030, as the effects of the legislation start to recede, that same customer will be paying about 38 cents more per month for electricity than today, according to the ICC analysis.

The ICC findings were similar to another study, released last week by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which concluded that Illinois customers would pay $364 million more annually over the next 10 years if the two nuclear plants were allowed to shut down in 2017, as had been threatened by Exelon.

The Future Energy Jobs bill was opposed by some business groups, the AARP and the attorney general's office, but it had support from organized labor and other business groups and was almost universally praised by environmental groups because it includes money to expand Illinois' solar- and wind-power industries, and for its energy-efficiency initiatives.

"This forward-looking energy policy levels the playing field and values all carbon-free energy equally, positions Illinois as a national leader in advancing clean energy, and will provide a major boost to the Illinois economy," said Chris Crane, Exelon's president and CEO.

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