Quinn vetoes electric utility rate hike bill
By Alex Keefe, WBEZ Radio
September 12, 2011, Chicago—Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has shot down legislation that would have made it easier for the state's two largest electric utilities to raise rates in order to make improvements to the power grid.

"It may be a dream come true for Commonwealth Edison, but it's a nightmare for consumers in Illinois," Quinn said before vetoing the bill.

Quinn dismissed the bill as a power company profit-grab that would fund questionable technological improvements to the state's power grid.

The bill would allow ComEd, which provides power to 70 percent of Illinoisians, to go around state regulators and hike electric rates in order to pay for improvements to its grid.

You can read the full version of this story on the WBEZ website.
The bill passed by the General Assembly in May would allow rate hikes to go into effect immediately. State regulators would be able to scale back a rate increase if they later found it to be too high, but that could only happen after the new, higher rates went into effect. Utilities currently must go through a nearly year-long process before a rate hike goes into effect.

ComEd has said the upgrades are necessary in order to save consumers money in the long-term and to get customers back online more quickly after power outages. The company estimates that a so-called "smart grid" system would have kept the lights on for an additional 100,000 to 175,000 customers who lost power when strong thunderstorms walloped northern Illinois in July, ultimately knocking out power to more than 850,000 people.

In order to appeal to critics, ComEd has offered to change its hike formula in a way that would decrease its profits, according to a report in Crain's Chicago Business. The utility has also reportedly offered to set up a fund to help low-income and elderly customers pay their electric bills after the hike goes into effect.

But Quinn has said that electric companies - not customers - should pay for power grid upgrades.

In an emailed statement, a ComEd representative said the company was disappointed by the governor's veto.

"We look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to help make grid modernization and economic growth a reality in Illinois," the statement reads.

The bill's sponsors have reportedly vowed to override Quinn's veto, but the governor says they'll have an uphill battle.