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Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Local Pulse – Just who is paying for ComEd’s political missteps?


The people of Naperville are fortunate to have a locally-controlled and managed Electric Utility System. This allows electricity to be delivered to Naperville consumers at rates that are lower than state and national averages. However, through the General Assembly’s 2021 passage of Illinois’ Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), those costs are expected to climb about 20%. Some feel that is a fair price to pay for a greener energy future, while others oppose the passage of the controversial legislation. But like it or hate it, at least we in Naperville are not facing the latest rate hike request by ComEd.

ComEd is still burning from the political ramifications of a political pay-to-play scandal that put the utility giant on the hook for a $200 million fine for its role in an alleged bribery scheme. In this scandal, the Feds alleged that ComEd provided lucrative and often little or no work jobs in exchange for favorable votes on legislation in Springfield. In a lengthy deferred prosecution agreement, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against ComEd in exchange for payment of the fine. It’s a huge fine; meant to sting and deter future unethical conduct.

Fast forward to April of 2022, and ComEd has petitioned the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) for permission to implement a $199 million increase in electricity delivery charges for consumers. The amount of the proposed increase should cause every ComEd customer to wonder why their energy supplier all of a sudden needs a rate hike that is almost exactly equal to the amount of their fine from the political corruption scandal. Every customer should be justifiably wondering just who will ultimately bear the cost for ComEd’s dirty politics.

The ICC process is lengthy, and takes a minimum of eight months. There will be an opportunity for people to provide public comment, and those comments will be available for all to see. That should make for some interesting reading. But if approved, the rate hike would translate to an increase of $2.20 for each consumer on their monthly bills, and the increase would take effect in January of 2023.

Keep in mind, last year ComEd was granted a $46 million rate increase, which increased energy bills by 16 cents per month for consumers. The fact that we are emerging from one of the most expensive heating cost winters that many can ever recall only intensifies the frustration. It all adds up to what is sure to be an interesting debate on whether or not the $199 million rate hike is justified.

Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli is a lifelong Naperville Resident and former Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives and Naperville City Councilman.