SPRINFFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn's effort to block ComEd from hiking rates was rejected by state lawmakers on Wednesday.
The House voted 71-44 to override Quinn's veto of the legislation, the minimum number of votes needed to do so. The vote came a day after the Senate also rejected the governor's veto.Under the measure, ComEd would get $2.6 billion in consumer rate hikes over 10 years in exchange for a pledge to digitize the electrical grid. The utility said that operational changes would ultimately save money and that in-home devices would give consumers more control over their electricity usage. New smart meters were to be installed throughout ComEd's service territory of roughly 3.8 million customers. About 130,000 have been installed as part of a trial project.
But when it came time for the 2011 law to be implemented, ComEd and the Illinois Commerce Commission disagreed. ComEd appealed 12 technical matters worth about $100 million a year. The dispute continues in court.
The legislation seeks to address three of those issues: whether to treat pensions as an asset or a liability; whether returns should be based on equipment in the ground at year-end or the average amount of equipment in the ground throughout the year; and the interest rate to be used for bringing into line the utility's actual versus hypothetical costs.
According to ComEd, the average residential bill of $82 per month would increase by about 40 cents in 2014 and by about 80 cents in 2017 under this proposal.
ComEd has long argued this bill is needed to support its smart grid program, a modernization it says would create jobs, reduce power outages and give consumers more say over their energy consumption.
ComEd is one of the state's large political donors to the campaign funds of Illinois lawmakers, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Quinn issued a statement this afternoon.
“I am disappointed that the General Assembly did not protect consumers from overreaching by utility monopolies like ComEd and Ameren. This is bad for families, businesses and our economy.
“Thirty years ago, I spearheaded the drive to create the Citizens Utility Board, a consumer watchdog that agrees with me now that this rate increase approved by the General Assembly was unjustified.”