SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — A measure that would increase electricity rates for Illinois customers to help pay for grid modernization has finally made it to the governor’s desk after months of being in a legislative hold.
The bill, informally referred to as “the SmartGrid bill” has been staunchly opposed by the Citizens Utility Board, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and others, because it allows for rate increases they say will simply increase the utility company’s bottom line.
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Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to veto the legislation since its inception in the state General Assembly, and he’s sticking to that.
“I’m not sure anyone in Illinois is for higher utility rates, whether you’re in business, or agriculture, or you’re a consumer in your household, I don’t think we should be raising utility rates,” Quinn said.
State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) had used a legislative maneuver to hold the bill, so as to try to avoid an immediate veto from Quinn.
The energy bill would raise electric rates as part of $3 billion plan to give ComEd and Ameren money for basic infrastructure, and a modern smart grid to monitor energy and reduce waste.
Utility companies say Illinois must upgrade its electrical grid if it is to remain competitive in attracting business. ComEd says the bill forces the company to fine itself if the upgrades outlined aren’t reached by a certain time.
Following the widespread and nearly weeklong power outages that many Chicago area residents suffered after a round of storms on July 11, some experts said a smart grid would have reduced the length of the outages.