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.
CUB Executive Director David Kolata said this work is all made possible by the support of Illinois consumers like you.
“These victories are your victories,” Kolata said. “We achieved them together because of your support. On behalf of the CUB team, thank you!”
Thanks to a ruling by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in December, we face a big battle in 2020 to secure clean, affordable energy in Illinois. (Take action!) Still, it’s important to review how the dedication, hard work and support of Illinois consumers paid off in 2019. CUB’s leadership team provided these year-end reports:
Legal Team, General Counsel Julie Soderna: Senior Attorney Kelly Turner and I juggled a heavy caseload: 26 cases. We helped cut Nicor Gas’ record rate hike by $62 million. We 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, which both take effect Jan. 1.
Consumer Advocacy Team, Director Sandra Marcelin-Reme: 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. “I don’t even remember joining those people,” she told a TV station that reported on CUB’s warning about rip-offs in June. Consumer Advocacy Assistant Jantay Gray secured refunds for Ms. Davis totaling $120.
The consumer advocacy team includes: Annie Warnock, Consumer Rights Specialist-Bilingual (Spanish); Danielle Holmes, Consumer Rights Specialist; and Jantay Gray, Administrative & Consumer Advocacy Assistant.
Outreach Team, Director Sarah Moskowitz: 2019 has been a busy year for our team! As part of our 35th Anniversary Clean Bill Campaign, we staffed 569 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 total of about $13,182 per month, or about $158,184 a year. We 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 will save customers an estimated $98,300 in electric bills in the first year alone.
The outreach team includes: Aimee Gendusa-English, Lead Service Liaison; Anairis Boror, Outreach Coordinator; Cate York, Sustainable Communities Liaison; Christina Uzzo, Environmental Outreach Coordinator; Foluke Akanni, Sustainable Communities Liaison; Ivonne Rychwa, Lead Community Liaison; Matt Harvey, Field Coordinator; Scott Allen, Environmental Outreach Coordinator.
Springfield Team, Bryan McDaniel, Director of Governmental Affairs: 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, and it takes effect on January 1. This was one of the biggest consumer victories in my decade at CUB. We see far too many people who are victimized by rip-offs–state statistics show that customers with alternative electric suppliers have lost nearly $800 million since 2015. Now, the challenge will be to work with the ICC and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to enforce the new law and catch any thieves trying to scam consumers out of their hard-earned money.
Research Team, Director Jeff Zethmayr: 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,” authored by Data Scientist Ramandeep Makhija and I, 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. Consumer advocates called the analysis “Fantastic” and “Stellar.” “Regulators need to demand this kind of analysis everywhere!” said one observer on social media.
Also, to mark our 35th anniversary, the communications team put out consumer-friendly guides throughout the year, including one to fight robocalls, one to help reduce TV costs and another to help consumers save on their cellphone bills.