The Silver Lining on Electricity Hikes
There is nothing good to be said about the prospect for significant increases in our residential electricity bills, which ComEd customers will begin seeing this month. No one likes to pay more for a needed service over which they feel little control. But we might find some consolation in a quick review of recent history and, better still, anticipation of the near future.
Announced May 7 by the company that procures energy for numerous companies to supply through ComEd's power infrastructure, the substantial jump in utility rates taking effect this month stem primarily from conditions in the increasingly volatile energy market. But it's worth noting that those same conditions have held costs down, and even produced some decreases, during the past two years.
Perhaps more worthy of consideration, though, are the pending changes in the "control" portion of the utility-rate equation. On that score, suburban customers will have within the next few years the tools to modify and minimize the effects of similar market fluctuations.
The promise rests in $2.6 billion in improvements ComEd is making to its lines and power facilities and, especially, in the so-called smart grid technology already installed in some Chicago-area communities and making its way toward our suburbs.
That technology has its own price. Under legislation approved in 2011 giving ComEd certain rate-hike guarantees, increases in ComEd's delivery rates boosted residential bills an average $5.50 a month in January. Next January, they could add as much as $3 a month more, if the Illinois Commerce Commission approves ComEd's full latest request. …