Little Bill is all grown up
News Room | Columns by CUB's Executive Director | Little Bill is all grown up
March 28, 2010—Have you ever seen the old Commonwealth Edison commercial, featuring an animated bird, "Little Bill," bragging about "cheap-cheap" electricity? As a woman merrily bounces from one appliance to another, a joyful jingle explains that we're using more power than ever before—from an electric frying pan to "an all-electric garbage can."

Of course, Little Bill, who actually is an upside-down, energy-sucking incandescent light bulb, talks a lot about how electricity is "a bigger bargain than ever," but not once does he chirp about energy efficiency.

Boy, how times have changed.

Now, nobody would dare to sing, "Electricity costs less today, you know, than it did many long years ago!" In fact, news just broke that ComEd will file another rate hike before the end of the year.

Secondly, unlike Little Bill, people, and even ComEd, are talking about energy efficiency today. Perhaps that's why we've gotten flooded with hundreds of calls about a great state/federal rebate program for Illinois consumers interested in buying energy-efficient appliances. We even got a call from Canada. (Sorry, the rebates are for Illinois only!)

The new program was launched on Jan. 31, giving customers breaks for buying big-ticket items that are super energy efficient—that's to say they have the federal government's "Energy Star" label.

The program was so popular that money set aside for 25 percent rebates on Energy Star-labeled water heaters ran out in less than a month. As of this writing, rebates ranging from $350 to $1,200 for central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and boilers, were going fast and were set to end on Monday, April 5. (If you want to find out the status of the program, call 877-782-7005, or go to CUB's detailed fact sheet at www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org.)

Another round of rebates will be available between April 16 and April 25. That's when you'll be able to get 15 percent discounts on Energy Star-labeled clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, and room air conditioners, as long as you make the purchase from a participating retailer.

Even better, if you do get one of these April rebates for a new refrigerator or freezer, you could tack on another $75 recycling rebate. That's right. Buy a rebated refrigerator or freezer, and you can receive a mail-in rebate of $75 for recycling your old one.

Consumers may not have a lot of faith in their utilities or the energy markets to bring their bills down, but they do know there's a lot they can do without ever leaving home. Energy efficiency is a great way to revolt against rate-hike hungry utilities and parent companies that make more money if you use more energy.

That's why CUB has launched a new tool, CUBEnergySaver.com, to help consumers build a money-saving plan for the home. And that's why we support programs like "smart grid" improvements, and these rebates, which make it easier for people to be energy-efficient and save money.

The time is ripe for a revolution on our utility bills—and we're finally starting to get the tools to do it.

Because Little Bill isn't so little anymore.