Electric bills to rise, but city says it could be worse

Written By BY BRIAN SLODYSKO Staff Reporter Posted: 04/11/2014, 12:24am

Electric bills could jump about 14 percent for most Chicagoans this May, but city officials say the increase would be even worse if ComEd were still the city’s electric supplier.

Under new electricity rates announced Sunday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, average utility customers will still save about $34 a year when compared with what they would pay to ComEd, according to city officials.

That’s a far cry from the $135 to $165 savings for the first 15 months that the administration initially touted before the city started doing business with Chicago-based electricity supplier Integrys Energy Services at the beginning of 2013.

Fluctuations in the energy market — where increased regulation of coal-burning power plants has created market uncertainty — have forced up the price of electricity, Emanuel’s policy director Michael Negron said Sunday.

Under the new rates, apartment dwellers and condo owners — who make up an estimated two-thirds of city residents — will get a break over single-family units.

Power bills going to apartments and condos will include a base charge of about $9 a month, but single-family homes will pay a monthly base-rate of about $22.

After that, residential users will pay roughly 5 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity used, officials said.

Emanuel picked Integrys Energy Services to be the Chicago’s electrical provider in 2012, shortly after voters approved a fall ballot measure allowing the city to shop for electricity in bulk in hopes of cutting utility bills.

While Integrys supplies the city’s power — and will continue to do so until at least May of 2015 when its contract expires — ComEd still handles billing and owns the infrastructure used to deliver electricity.

Even though rates will be going up, city officials insist they spared Chicago electricity customers from the worst.

“People who are with ComEd will see a bigger increase,” said Negron, who added that the city’s goal in negotiations was, “Let’s make sure we’re getting people a better price than they would under ComEd.”

But even if ComEd rates somehow wound up cheaper than those offered by Integrys, a provision in the city’s contract would kick in, forcing Integrys to match ComEd’s rates, city officials have said.

In an emailed statement, ComEd spokeswoman Martha Arendt neither confirmed nor denied the city’s claim about the utility’s rates.

“ComEd fully supports retail competition and open energy markets. This has resulted in ComEd residential customers paying 2 percent less in average rates than they did nearly 25 years ago,” Arendt wrote. “ComEd cannot and does not involve itself in the pricing and contracting by energy suppliers with their customers — and ComEd does not profit from the supply of energy, regardless of the source.”

Email: bslodysko@suntimes.com

Twitter: @BrianSlodysko

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