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Beware of any bill in Springfield that jacks up gas and electricity bills again

Exelon's Byron Generating Station, a nuclear energy plant, in Ogle County, Ill. | Madison Hopkins/Better Government Association via AP

The future of energy policy in Illinois could soon be here.

The major utilities, clean energy proponents and others are all pushing legislation at the state capitol that could greatly impact how we receive energy in our homes and businesses around the state.

As the debate continues this spring, we have one word of caution: carefully consider the costs for consumers.

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We recently worked with energy expert Mark Pruitt, former director of the Illinois Power Agency, to look at the cost impacts of the last two major pieces of energy legislation in Illinois — the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act that created the SmartGrid program, and the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act that promoted clean energy investment and provided state subsidies for two Exelon Generation nuclear plants.

Our study found significant additional consumer costs from these laws: nearly $20 billion —billion with a b — in higher electric rates over a period of 14 years.

Between 2013 and 2027, residential, commercial and industrial customers will have paid $14.8 billion more in the costs for Ameren Illinois and ComEd to distribute power to homes and businesses over what we paid in 2013, from the EIMA SmartGrid law. And FEJA will have added an extra $4.6 billion in higher rates during the same period.

We understand the need to invest in a strong, secure system for generating and delivering our power and do not intend to criticize past legislative efforts or the current process. But we must stress that higher electric rates create significant challenges for all consumers — from older residents on fixed incomes to small and large businesses trying to compete amid growing costs and other pressures.

We urge policymakers to carefully balance the need to invest in our energy future, with the ability of consumers to afford the investment.

Julie Vahling, associate state director of AARP Illinois

Ron Tabaczynski, director of government affairs for BOMA/Chicago

Mark Biel, CEO of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois

Lift the ban on rent control

Like many other Cook County residents, I spend over a third of my income on rent.

Every year, I search my neighborhood, the surrounding neighborhoods, and then the rest of the city looking for a place to live because I fear that my landlord will raise my rent even further beyond my means.

That search always ends with an exasperated sigh once I realize that rents are rising throughout the entire city.

It’s especially worrisome now, as my landlord regularly shows potential investors my apartment so that they might provide funds needed for upgrades.

Will I be evicted if the building is sold? Will I receive enough notice to find somewhere to live?

As a student, these questions pop into my head every time I pay rent and balance my budget.

In Chicago and Cook County, this is not an uncommon experience.

I want the opportunity to have a discussion about housing, rent control and the cost of living in Chicago. Unfortunately, due to a law passed in 1997 with the assistance of the Illinois Real Estate lobby outright banning rent control, that isn’t possible.

More than 50 percent of Cook County citizens spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent — and each year since 2014 the state’s population has been declining.

I’m sure that many other Illinois residents would be interested in talking about rent control.

This isn’t just an issue of needing more affordable housing (which, we do) we need rental protections against unjust increases, stabilization and rent control.

Ethan Jantz, Avondale

Revamp expensive state pensions

Springfield has a wonderful opportunity to finally fix what is killing Illinois.

As they prepare for an amendment to the Illinois Constitution for a graduated income tax structure, they need to add an additional amendment allowing the state to modify and curtail the Illinois’ pension agreements.

It’s the pension agreements that brought us to this point. I won’t vote for one amendment without the other.

Bill Fanning, Vernon Hills