Illinois lawmakers on Thursday will be considering a bill that opponents say would be a taxpayer bailout of one of the country's most profitable energy companies.
At issue is Senate Bill 1585, which would allow Chicago-based energy giant Exelon to mandate a surcharge on electric bills statewide. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and several groups, including AARP Illinois, oppose the bill. Julie Vahling, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Illinois, said the bill, as it's written now, would lead to higher rates for energy customers and could put a financial burden on seniors who are living on fixed incomes.
"For the aging population," she said, "oftentimes utility costs are some of the highest percentages of where household income goes."
Exelon's northern Illinois affiliate, ComEd, has argued that the new so-called "demand rate" charges are needed to keep at least three of its downstate power plants from shutting down. Vahling argued, however, that federal rules would keep the plants open if they're deemed essential to the state's power grid.
If lawmakers do approve the new demand rate structure, Vahling said customers could be figuratively left in the dark when it comes to their electric bills.
"There is no technology in a household right now that allows a consumer to monitor what their demand is," she said. "So, it's basically saying, 'Well, we're going to charge you for something that you can't really see or monitor on your own in real time.' "
Exelon said it could start closing a plant in Clinton as soon as this fall if it sees no relief from Springfield. The state's Senate Energy Committee is expected to discuss the rate-increase bill Thursday afternoon.
Details of SB 1585 are online at ilga.gov.