Com Ed to the Rescue

Glory be!

Look at the gift our Illinois General Assembly has blessed me with.

A cut of $85.91 in my October electric bill. (Click on bill to enlarge.)

We only have to pay 5.34 this month.

The rest has mysteriously disappeared thanks to that super-electric rate regulator, the Illinois General Assembly.

It’s really a throwback to the days before the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Electric magnate Sam Insull used to have to buy the favors of the Illinois General Assembly. He got tired of doing that, according to his secretary, and got them to create the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Fewer people to buy is what I was told.

Now, Insull’s successors run Commonwealth Edison.

The free market advocates of the late 1990’s, not to mention then-ComEd Exec Sam Skinner (no relation), pressed for an auction system.

It would lower ComEd’s rates from being the highest in the Midwest to, maybe average.

Somehow, I don’t think it worked out that way.

ComEd got permission to sell of the very-costly-to-build and really-inefficiently-run (at least in 1980, when I last got monthly reports on the subject) nuclear power plants.

So, the nuclear power generation benefit Illinois rate payers paid dearly for over the decades was bartered away for, what, a ten-year rate freeze.

I certainly didn’t figure out that part of the complicated bill out. Frankly, I doubt that many members of the General Assembly knew the implications of the proposal.

In any event, when the ICC held the free market auctions, the bids came in quite high.

The competition promised by the de-regulation advocates did not materialize.

Instead much higher bills–up 24%–in ComEd began arriving in customers mail boxes. In the non-Com Ed, mainly Ameren territory, the electric bills were much, much, much higher.

Folks in northern Illinois who are regularly taken to the cleaners by the tollway, the RTA and, in the collar counties, but not in Cook County, by much higher property taxes pretty much shrugged and paid the 24% higher bills.

In Central and Southern Illinois, however, the folks went ballistic.

It became the “you son of a b—-h, if you don’t lower these rates, we’ll kick you out of office” issue of the year.

The result was that northern Illinois folks got screwed to the wall again. Upside down. With money falling out of their pockets.

With 70% of the residential customer base, ComEd and its parent company ponied up 80% of the approximately half billion dollar of refunds, but its customers only got half back.

Too many northern Illinois legislators allowed a disproportionate share of the money pried out of our electric company’s pockets to be shunted to Central and Southern Illinois ratepayers.

Here’s what CBS Channel Two Mike Flannery’s reported:

“Some representatives complained that the northern Illinois ComEd service area was getting an unfair small share, with ComEd and its corporate parent, Exelon, contributing 80 percent and downstate Ameren only 20 percent of the funds.

“But the actual rate relief cash was being split 50-50, a net transfer of nearly $300 million from the Chicago area’s 3.8 million ComEd customers to Ameren’s 1.2 million customers downstate (emphasis added).

“’I think if you represent a ComEd rate-payer, you have to ask yourself why is the rate-payer in ComEd having to subsidize the rest of the state,’ said Rep. Michael Tryon (R-Crystal Lake).“

$85.91 was cut from my family’s bill, which apparently was higher than average. (I’ll have to do more to follow Jimmy Carter’s White House example by flicking off more lights.)

Ameren customers were guaranteed a $100 rebate.

What did that Reform Party presidential candidate Ross Perot say about hearing a “great sucking sound?”

At least in Illinois we know where it is going?

But, hey, it couldn’t have been much better for incumbent state representatives and senators…unless the “General Assembly Rate Relief Credit” (look at the bill; that’s what it says) had arrived on January’s electric bill—right before the February 5th primary election.

But more research tells me I’ll get about $10 a month on each of the rest of this year’s bills.

Presumably the General Assembly will get political credit each time.

And the last bill will come the month before the primary.

How convenient for incumbents.

In other news, ComEd shares went up over 2% the day rate relief bill passed, stockholders were so relieved that a rate freeze was dead.

All images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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