Since its inception in 1984, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) has saved Illinois consumers more than $20 billion by fighting proposed electricity, natural gas and telephone rate hikes.
In fact, for every dollar CUB has raised during that time, it has yielded roughly $300 in savings—a dramatic return on investment that represents one more reason why the St. Louis Post-Dispatch praised CUB as the “gold standard” of consumer advocates.
Below are some of CUB’s biggest victories over the years.
In CUB’s 35th year fighting for consumers, we set a new record for staffing money-saving events, marked a historic legislative victory, and worked on cases that have the potential to secure $90 million in refunds, rate cuts and other consumer benefits.
Legal: CUB’s legal team juggled a heavy caseload: 26 cases. They helped cut Nicor Gas’ record rate hike by $62 million. They also helped secure a $7.2 million refund package—including $3.5 million in bill credits—from Peoples Gas, which faced strong allegations of mismanagement and imprudence. In addition, ComEd and Ameren Illinois both filed rate cuts for 2020. The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) OK’d a $16.9 million ComEd decrease and a $7 million Ameren rate cut.
Consumer advocacy: Our team handled thousands of complaints and inquiries from utility customers this year and saved individuals a total of $124,855. Consumer Rights Specialist Annie Warnock made a ComEd customer happy by saving him $82,000 in a billing mix-up involving his business. “CUB is a vital resource, you guys helped save my company from bankruptcy,” he said. We also helped 96-year-old Elizabeth Davis, who was overpaying by 38-50% with two different alternative power suppliers. Consumer Advocacy Assistant Jantay Gray secured refunds for Ms. Davis totaling $120.
Outreach: CUB’s outreach team staffed 590 events (a new record!) attended by about 20,000 people. By reviewing 880 utility bills at 78 of our popular utility bill clinics, the team saved consumers a total of about $158,184 a year. They helped people sign up for energy efficiency programs and uncovered gas/electric supplier rip-offs on customers’ bills.
Among the highlights, Lead Community Liaison Ivonne Rychwa helped secure a $200 refund for a victim of an alternative supplier rip-off. Also, Christina Uzzo, CUB’s environmental outreach coordinator, helped organize 65 community meetings to promote Solarize Chicagoland, a program that makes solar more accessible and affordable for consumers. The program achieved commitments to install solar on 135 properties in northern Illinois. The newly-installed solar arrays are expected to save customers an estimated $98,300 in electric bills in the first year alone.
Springfield: Our policy team worked long hours with other consumer advocates to achieve a major legislative victory: Unanimous passage of the HEAT Act. It’s one of the nation’s strongest laws against alternative gas and electric supplier rip-offs.
Research: In 2019, CUB became the nation’s first watchdog group to publish a study that showed how electric vehicles could LOWER power bills for everyone—even people who don’t own an EV. Meanwhile, our “Cluster Analysis” reviewed smart meter data from 2.5 million electric customers. It raised the concern that low-income households may pay more than their fair share for electricity.
CUB’s team helped save Illinois consumers more than $125 million in 2018, adding to the $20 billion in savings since the consumer watchdog opened its doors 35 years ago.
Legal: CUB’s legal team helped reduce Nicor Gas’ proposed rate hike by $115 million, and it worked with other consumer advocates to help secure a settlement for an Ameren gas rate cut of about $10 million, approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in October. The team also worked to make sure the big utilities cut rates by a total of $350 million in connection with a federal corporate tax cut approved by Congress last year.
Consumer advocacy: CUB’s consumer advocacy team fielded thousands of inquiries/complaints and saved individuals more than $108,000 by spotting billing errors and rip-offs and advocating for consumers. Charlene received guidance from CUB as she worked to get a $495 refund from ComEd, and her experience was so positive that she now tells her friends: “If anyone needs help, let me know…I have CUB’s number.”
Outreach: CUB’s outreach team staffed over 500 events in 2018—meaning on average not a day goes by where CUB isn’t somewhere in Illinois helping people cut their utility bills. This year, the team showed individual Illinoisans how to save more than $144,000, by spotting alternative supplier rip-offs on bills, connecting people with money-saving energy efficiency programs, and handing out energy efficient light bulbs. “You guys are awesome,” said Moira, after she brought her complaint about a wireless carrier to a CUB utility-bill clinic and later received a $797 credit.
“Listen, Lead, Share”: Launched by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, of which CUB is a member, the “Listen, Lead, Share” campaign consisted of a series of community discussions across Illinois. CUB has participated in about 20 of these conversations to hear what Illinoisans had to say about making clean energy affordable and accessible to everyone in the state. Environment Outreach Coordinator Scott Allen said he focused less on talking and more on listening at these events: “It’s key that people from every corner of Illinois come together to talk about the economic advantages of affordable, clean energy and how we achieve that for everyone.”
Research: CUB published its first-ever digital Gas and Electric Guide, the only publication in the state that lays out a person’s rights as a utility customer in a clear, consumer-friendly manner. Also, CUB Executive Director David Kolata and Research Director Jeff Zethmayr wrote an academic paper that found electric vehicle owners could save with a ComEd pricing plan called Hourly Pricing. According to CUB’s analysis of 2016 and 2017 pricing data, EV drivers using Hourly Pricing would have saved 52-59 percent over the utility’s traditional electricity rates, equaling as much as $389 in savings over the two-year study period.
Legal/Policy: Helped win $140 million in lower utility bills in cases before the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).
- $17.5 million ComEd rate cut.
- $80 million ComEd refund.
- $42.5 million reduction in Nicor Gas’ proposed hike (but we want to cut it by a lot more!!).
We also helped win stronger rules against electric rip-offs. ICC Chairman Brien Sheahan said: “I want to thank David Kolata and the Citizens Utility Board and Attorney General (Lisa) Madigan for their steadfast persistence in crafting these rules. They deserve much credit for their strong and consistent advocacy on behalf of utility customers in Illinois.”
Outreach: Staffed 436 money-saving events and showed customers how to save $231,868.27 by analyzing utility bills, handing out energy-efficient light bulbs, and signing up people for efficiency programs.
At one CUB utility-bill clinic, a CUB volunteer—just an average person like you and me—saved not one, but two people from paying quadruple on their gas bills with an unregulated gas supplier. Service like that sparked another clinic-goer to exclaim: “It feels good to have someone on my side!”
Consumer Advocacy: Fielded 3,500 complaints/inquiries about utility companies and generated $130,472.40 in savings by advocating for consumer rights, spotting billing errors and securing refunds for people who contacted CUB.
“We would not have a resolution today if it weren’t for CUB’s care and concern,” said one CUB member who worked with the consumer advocacy team to erase a $6,400 AT&T debt for her 85-year-old neighbors. “You would not believe how difficult it is to find real help and advocacy out there for consumers.”
CUB Action Network: We generated more than 530,000 emails, petition signatures, and faxes urging policymakers to fight high bills and rip-offs in 2017. Policymakers from the halls of the State Capitol to the White House heard from us.
New Publications: CUB’s research arm created an important guide on electric vehicles, a groundbreaking study on hourly pricing, and for the first time ever we released a guide to help people protect their privacy from crooks and scam artists on the internet. (We also updated our guide to cutting TV costs.)
Policy Team: Efficiency victory in Springfield
CUB helped pass the Future Energy Jobs Bill (Senate Bill 2814). We supported the legislation because it requires ComEd and Ameren to dramatically improve their energy efficiency programs and reduce electricity waste by up to 21.5 percent, lowering our power bills by at least $4 billion through 2030.
Legal Team: $35 million in savings
We helped win $35 million in legal victories for lower utility bills. (Helped secure an $18.5 million gas refund package, helped reduce ComEd’s rate hike by $2.3 million, and helped reduce Illinois American’s hike by $14.2 million.) Plus, the legal team successfully fought for state regulators to pass stronger consumer protections against electric rip-offs.
Outreach Team: $148,787 in savings
-CUB’s Outreach team helped host 475 events this year, showing customers how to save an estimated $148,787 by analyzing utility bills, handing out energy-efficient light bulbs, and signing up people for efficiency programs
Advocacy Team: $56,711 in savings
The Consumer Advocacy team fielded thousands of inquiries about utility companies and generated $56,711 in savings by advocating for consumer rights, spotting billing errors and securing refunds for people who contacted CUB.
CUB Action Network: 55,000 messages
This year, members of CUB’s Action Network generated more than 55,000 emails/petition signatures urging politicians and regulators to fight high bills and rip-offs. If you haven’t already, join at CitizensUtilityBoard.org.
Statewide Education Campaign: New cable guide
CUB created a 19-page guide to help pay-TV customers cut their bills, and then distributed it for free in our first-ever statewide education campaign focusing on cable customers.
Rate Cases: $92 million in savings. In 2015, CUB’s legal team beat back roughly $61 million in Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas rate-hike requests and defeated about $14 million in Ameren rate hikes. The team also helped to increase a ComEd rate cut by $17 million (to a total of $67 million).
Refunds: $570,000 in savings. CUB’s legal team worked with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and the Illinois Attorney General’s office to help negotiate $570,000 in refunds for customers of two alternative power suppliers, Nordic Energy and Major Energy. The companies had been accused of misleading marketing.
CUB Energy Saver: $373,700 in savings. This year, more than 3,900 thrifty Illinoisans joined CUB Energy Saver, CUB’s free tool that builds a customized money-saving plan for your home and rewards participants for cutting kilowatt-hours. The service saved users a total of $373,700 in 2015.
CUB events: $250,000 in savings. CUB’s Outreach team helped host nearly 500 events, including a record 60 events in August. The 10-member team helped show consumers how to save an estimated $250,000 in 2015 by analyzing utility bills, handing out energy-efficient light bulbs, and signing people up for efficiency programs.
Consumer advocacy: $30,000 in savings. CUB’s Consumer Advocacy team fielded almost 8,000 inquiries/complaints and generated more than $30,000 in savings by advocating for consumer rights, spotting billing errors and securing refunds.
Victories in Springfield. Amid deadlock in Springfield, CUB successfully pushed the General Assembly to approve a $50 cap on alternative supplier exit fees. We also were part of a successful campaign to veto Senate Bill 1421, which could have forced Illinois water customers to pay for services they never receive. Additionally, CUB and other consumer advocates battled Exelon to a standstill, helping to stall legislation that would have added up to $1.6 billion in new fees to Ameren and ComEd power bills.
Major Victories Over the Years
- Centel refund/rate cut, 1986: $2,000,000
- Blocked Nicor Gas rate hike, secured refund, 1987: $40,000,000
- Peoples/North Shore Gas rate cut/refund, 1987: $27,000,000
- ComEd rate deal rejected, 1987: $1,320,000,000
- Overturned ComEd rate hike, 1987: $245,000,000
- Illinois Power rate deal blocked, 1988: $3,000,000,000
- ComEd rate deal overturned, 1989: $750,000,000
- ComEd rate case settlement, 1993: $1,679,000,000
- Ameritech rate cut, 1994: $465,000,000
- 10-year rate cut under electric restructuring law, 1997: $6,288,124,185
- ComEd customer assistance fund, 2000: $400,000
- CILCO refund, 2001: $20,400,000
- Ameritech merger savings settlement credit, 2002: $224,000,000
- Verizon merger savings settlement credit, 2003: $139,686,512
- Blocked ComEd/IP merger/rate-hike legislation, 2003: $2,000,000,000
- SBC voicemail class action settlement, 2004: $40,000,000
- Cut ComEd rate hike, 2005: $262,455,000
- Peoples Gas/Enron refund, 2006: $100,000,000
- Cut Peoples/North Shore Gas rate hike, 2007: $32,267,000
- Cut Ameren electric rate hike, 2007: $58,342,000
- Cut ComEd rate hike, 2007: $87,761,000
- Ameren/ComEd refunds after power auction abolished, 2007: $1,001,000,000
- Cut Nicor Gas rate hike,2008: $72,237,000
- Cut Ameren gas/electric rate hike, 2009: $118,618,000
- Cut Peoples/North Shore Gas rate hike, 2009: $58,717,000
- Cut ComEd rate hike, 2010: $218,793,000
- Illinois Power Agency procurement savings, 2009-11: $1,639,663,226
- Cut Peoples/North Shore Gas rate hike, 2011: $61,504,000
- Cut Peoples/North Shore Gas rate hike, 2012: $40,920,000
- Nicor Gas refund, 2013: $72,149,519
Total savings: $20.065 billion