* Dave McKinney…
A 2011 state law created a “profit machine” for Commonwealth Edison and its corporate parent while saddling Illinoisans with higher electricity bills for the past decade, a new report by a top utility watchdog concludes.
The so-called smart-grid law that ComEd persuaded state lawmakers to enact is now a part of an ongoing federal bribery probe into the utility’s statehouse lobbying efforts that were directed heavily at Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Illinois PIRG says that 2011 law, which it and other consumer groups opposed, has ComEd poised to reap annual profits of $1 billion by 2023 with far less oversight from state utility regulators and needs to be gutted.
“The narrative they’ve pushed for years that this law was great for consumers, and they continue to push even though it’s tied up in this bribery scheme has to be questioned, and that’s what we are trying to do with this report,” said Abe Scarr, the group’s director.
The law in question was one former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed but was overridden on bipartisan legislative supermajorities.
The report is here.
* From an Illinois PIRG press release…
The report found that concerning customer rates and ComEd profits:
• In 2019, ComEd customers paid 37 percent more for delivery service than they did in 2011;
• Since 2012, ComEd customers have paid $4.7 billion more than they would have had the formula created by EIMA not increased delivery rates over the level in 2012;
• Over the past six years, ComEd has earned more than $1 billion more in profits than it earned over either of the previous six-year periods while it has been an Exelon subsidiary.
In 2011, then-ComEd President and COO Anne Pramaggiore promised “a smart meter in every home opening a world of consumer information and pricing options that provide opportunities for customers to save money.” Regarding ComEd’s failure to deliver customer benefits, the report notes that:
• Time-of-use rates, a critical customer benefit from smart meters, will not be broadly available to ComEd customers until at least 2024;
• Highly touted programs that were supposed to drive customer value from smart meters, such as the smart grid “Test Bed” and “Green Button Connect,” have been outright failures;
• Even benefits that have arrived, including reliability improvements and increased operational efficiency, have not been properly evaluated or scrutinized, so that it is currently impossible to know whether those gains are worth the billions of dollars customers paid to achieve them.
“ComEd did not need formula rates to improve upon its chronically poor reliability performance, or to improve service through new smart grid technology,” said Jeff Orcutt of Chapman Energy Strategies and report co-author. “Instead, ComEd used misleading promises of a customer-centered vision to win itself guaranteed profits and less accountability.”
Over the course of 2020, Gov. JB Pritzker convened a series of stakeholder meetings geared towards crafting comprehensive energy legislation. The report makes a series of recommendations, some of which Gov. Pritzker put forward himself when he released his guiding energy principles in August. The Illinois PIRG report recommends:
• An immediate end to formula ratemaking
• A thorough and independent audit of ComEd’s investments over the past decade and of the current status of ComEd’s grid
• Integrated distribution planning, a public and transparent process for grid planning and investment decisions
• Forcing ComEd to immediately offer customer-friendly time-of-use rates
• Forcing Exelon to divest from ComEd, or, short of that, establishing better procedures to mitigate well-established risks posed by conflicts of interest inherent to Exelon’s ownership of both expensive nuclear power plants and ComEd
• Establishing more effective checks on utility political power by limiting utility political giving, making permanent the ethics changes included in the deferred prosecution agreement, and ending utilities’ ability to charge customers for charitable contributions, rather than making such contributions out of utility profits.
* Meanwhile, from Midwest Energy News…
A mysterious group has spent more than a quarter million dollars promoting a vague agenda that’s critical of Illinois utilities’ clean energy transitions.
Dramatic music plays as a mother wakes a child and a graduate throws their cap. “Illinois was promised a clean future, clean energy, clean jobs. But all ComEd and Exelon gave us was dirty politics.”
So says a TV ad aired in Illinois last summer, the work of a group called the Clean Energy Transition Project that has spent more than a quarter million dollars on social media and TV advertising in Illinois in recent years, according to research by Capitol Fax and clean energy groups. […]
While the Clean Energy Transition Project claims to promote clean energy, it does not propose any specific policies, but rails against the scandal-plagued utility ComEd and its parent Exelon, owner of the state’s nuclear plants. CEJA backers see the campaign as a direct attack on their legislation, which includes proposed capacity market reforms that would benefit Exelon.
“They are definitely co-opting the messages of climate and clean energy,” said Illinois Environmental Council executive director Jen Walling. “They’re putting out negative and false information about our legislation. That’s terrible, and they’re doing it in such a way that it’s confusing and misleading the public. If the groups funding this want to get involved in the energy debate, this isn’t the way to do it.” […]
“If this is dark money from the fossil fuel industry, that seems the most likely scenario,” said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter. “You have to assume they think their policies and values are not supported by Illinoisans; otherwise they would be a lot more forthright about who they are and what outcomes they want.”
…Adding… Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition…
Today’s report from Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition member Illinois PIRG demonstrates once again that utilities have run the game in Springfield for too long, and ratepayers got stuck with the tab. Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly have an opportunity to hold utilities accountable by increasing oversight and transparency, providing restitution for ratepayers, and ending the rubber stamping of rate hikes. The Clean Energy Jobs Act is the only bill in Springfield to do just that.