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Quinn rejects plan to increase electric rates

CHICAGO (AP) – Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday vetoed a plan to increase electricity rates by up to $70 million – a proposal that Commonwealth Edison Co. had pitched as a way to get electrical grid modernization back on track.

The Chicago Democrat said the bill would have undermined oversight and forced automatic rate increases on the public.

“We cannot allow big utilities to take over and run roughshod over families and business in our state,” Quinn told reporters.

ComEd had touted the bill as a way to clarify so-called Smart Grid legislation approved in 2011. That bill authorized a decadelong, roughly $3 billion project aimed at improving the power companies’ delivery systems by installing “smart meters” in ComEd homes and most Ameren homes. Proponents had said the work, affecting millions of Illinois customers, would create about 2,500 jobs.

But executing the smart grid system has been tricky.

The Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates utilities, and ComEd disagreed over implementation. ComEd filed a court appeal over a dozen highly technical matters worth roughly $100 million annually to the utility.

ComEd also faces a class-action lawsuit for delaying the installation of smart meters. ComEd had put off starting the installation until 2015, when a lower-than-expected rate increase left it short of the cash needed to install nearly 4 million of the high-tech, energy-saving meters. ComEd said the lawsuit, which seeks at least $182 million, is without merit.

The new bill – which easily sailed through both the Illinois House and Senate – was designed to address some of those issues and would have required ComEd to begin installing the meters this year, among other things.

Quinn, who helped start the consumer advocacy Citizens Utility Board early in his political career, said that he supports the idea of Smart Grid technology but that the utilities have gone too far for repeatedly asking for rate increases. The governor initially vetoed the 2011 smart grid legislation, but lawmakers overrode the veto and made some changes to the bill.

Legislators could override his veto this month before the summer break.

ComEd officials said Sunday that they were disappointed by Quinn’s veto.

“The delay of the Smart Grid harms Illinois’ overall economic competitiveness and ability to attract and grow business here,” said ComEd spokeswoman Martha Swaney in a statement.


The bill is SB9.


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