ComEd seeks record-high $1.5 billion rate hike over next 4 years

ComEd says that’s the cost of bolstering the region’s electric grid in a statewide effort to phase out carbon emissions and to protect the system from severe weather damage that’s becoming more common due to climate change.

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ComEd bills could go up almost $7 per month next year, and $17 per month total by 2027.

ComEd bills could go up almost $7 per month next year, and $17 per month total by 2027.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago-area households could see their electric bills bump up by $6.72 per month next year  — and that would only be the first of three straight annual hikes under a record-high $1.5 billion rate increase request filed by ComEd on Tuesday. 

The utility’s four-year, phased-in hike would include similar increases in power delivery rates in 2025 and 2026, followed by a slight reduction in 2027, according to ComEd’s filing with the Illinois Commerce Commission. 

By then, the average monthly residential bill would be about $17 higher than today’s average cost of $93 — an 18% jump.

ComEd says that’s the price of bolstering the region’s electric grid in a statewide effort to phase out carbon emissions and protect the system from severe weather damage as it becomes more common due to climate change. 

Under a landmark clean energy law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2021, the state is aiming to eliminate all carbon emissions from power plants by 2050, while getting a million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

“ComEd has a critical role in ensuring the transition to cleaner energy is reliable and equitable for all,” ComEd CEO Gil Quiniones said in a statement. “These proposed investments are necessary to deliver the resilient 24/7 power our customers depend on, prepare the grid for fleets of electric vehicles and electrification, integrate more clean energy and battery storage and equitably advance a decarbonized energy future.”

Consumer advocates at the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois criticized the utility’s proposal, which also seeks to increase ComEd’s return on equity, or profit rate, from about 8% to 10.5% next year. The watchdog group called that “an excessive profit rate for shareholders.”

“That’s why we will join with other consumer advocates to fight it, a CUB statement read. “We will scrutinize ComEd’s filing to challenge every penny the company can’t justify.”

ComEd leaders said their current profit rate is among the lowest in the nation and would remain relatively low by the time it ratchets up to 10.65% in 2027.

Next year’s proposed rate hike of roughly $847 million on its own is more than the $827 million that rates climbed over the previous 11 years combined. By 2027, rates will have more than doubled since 2012, according to the Illinois Public Interest Research Group. 

“ComEd will no doubt justify its massive proposed rate hike by the need to invest in the grid to transition to clean energy,” Abe Scarr, director of the public interest research group, said in a statement. “But as vital as the clean energy transition is, it cannot mean a blank check for ComEd to raise rates and fatten Exelon’s profits.”

Scarr quipped that the utility could “make out like bandits,” referring to a comment from former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan that was captured on a federal wiretap as part of the racketeering and bribery case against him. 

Madigan is accused of seeking jobs, contracts and money for his associates from former ComEd executives, in exchange for his help in passing legislation favorable to the utility. That included a formula rate law, set to expire next year, that gave ComEd some leeway to adjust its rates without regulator approval. 

Madigan, slated for trial next year, has pleaded not guilty. 

Addressing consumer skepticism of another round of rate hikes after the utility admitted to taking part in the Springfield scheme alleged against Madigan, a ComEd spokesman said it has Implemented “comprehensive reforms” with more oversight and employee training to make sure such wrongdoing “can’t happen again.”

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce endorsed ComEd’s rate hike plan, saying it “will keep Illinois competitive.”

“As businesses continue to increase their electrification needs, an affordable, reliable and clean grid has never been more critical,” chamber president Jack Lavin said. 

The commerce commission has until December to decide whether the rate hikes are justified. 

Regulators at that agency have a full plate this year after massive increase requests from Nicor and Peoples Gas, which is seeking its own all-time high rate hike of $402 million. That means Chicago customers will be shelling out an average of $18.55 more per month on energy bills next year if the Peoples and ComEd increases are approved. 

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