By MIKE FLANNERY
The Chicago area's biggest electric utility wants another rate increase.
Critics complain it's big enough to shock some people and to force some businesses to lay off workers.
Unless it gets a bailout from ratepayers, ComEd/Exelon says it will shut one Downstate nuclear power plant next June, and another in 2018. Critics, though, say it's a mistake to force ratepayers to protect utilities from market forces.
“These plants that are fundamentally not needed because Illinois generates 41 percent more electricity than we need,” said David Lundy of the BEST Coalition.
Exelon and its allies in Springfield waited until the final days of the General Assembly's fall session to release their 446-page long bailout proposal. Also benefiting is Texas-based Dynegy, operator of coal-fired power plants Downstate.
Infuriating some critics is the bill's brand-new, variable rate scheme; apparently not based on how much energy a consumer uses in any given month, but rather on the peak day of usage.
“One bad day, or when you're cleaning your home one day, or you have a World Series party, all of those savings you may have had in one month, goes away. And so there is no way to manage that,” said Amy Heart of Alliance for Solar Choice.
“If you live on a fixed income and you are suddenly faced with a bill that's $20 or $50 more than it was the month before, but you didn't use any more electricity -- how detrimental that is going to be!” said Julie Vahling of AARP.
Many consumers in Chicago pay more in utility bills than in the hated property tax, making some legislators nervous about the political impact of voting for a bailout.