The Illinois House approval the proposal on a 67-47 vote, despite the strong objections of Governor Pat Quinn and Atty. General Lisa Madigan, both of whom have called for more consumer protections as part of the plan. The proposal next has to pass the state Senate.
Under the utility’s proposed plan, ComEd would install new smart meters that provide real time consumption data. Currently, bills are frequently estimated, which often results in homeowners getting large “catch-up” bills if the estimate was wrong.
The improved meters allow ComEd to pinpoint outages quicker rather than waiting for consumers to call and then have technicians drive around looking for a frayed wire or a downed pole.
Sponsoring Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Democrat-Orland Park), called the legislation a cutting edge opportunity that makes “our planet a better place for everyone. This is the time to modernize the Illinois electric grid.”
Other lawmakers were more skeptical. Rep. Elaine Nekritz (Democrat-Northbrook) says the legislation allows ComEd to “lock in profits at the expense of ratepayers.” Rep. Mary Flowers (Democrat-Chicago), argued the legislation “guarantees higher electric rates for our constituents at a time when people are sitting at their kitchen tables trying to figure out how to make ends meet.”
The utility company would have to hit benchmarks by 2014, including proof that residential electricity bills hadn’t risen more than two and a half percent each year. ComEd would also have to meet certain customer service and performance standards or regulators could cut into profits.
Lawmakers would get to renew or dump the program in 2017.
The Illinois Commerce Commission would oversee the deployment.