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2020: CUB’s Year by the Numbers

2020 certainly wasn’t the year we were expecting: COVID-19 pandemic, racial and economic injustice and utility corruption. But CUB continued to work for Illinois consumers, despite some of the obstacles this year has thrown our way.

We converted all of our in-person events to online programming, and invited people to email us their bills so we could analyze them. We fought for and won unprecedented consumer protections before the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). We also defeated a proposal  that could have made people vulnerable to COVID-19 and rip-offs.

As you read through all the numbers that summarize CUB’s year, know that all this good work is because of you, our supporters who fight for lower bills and believe in clean, affordable energy and consumer rights for all. Thank you!

ICC Docket No. 20-0309

CUB General Counsel Julie Soderna

CUB helped develop some of the nation’s strongest consumer protections this year for people struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic.

After months of negotiations, CUB and a team of consumer advocates from across the state secured an extended moratorium on shut-offs, consumer-friendly payment plans and a payment-assistance program to help people pay off debt. While these provisions give direct relief to those having difficulty paying their bills, it also benefits all customers.

This plan keeps more customers connected to essential utility service, while also reducing uncollectable costs that are included in the rates everyone pays.

$200 Million? Not Enough.

In the wake of federal prosecutors revealing a ComEd bribery scheme to help pass formula rate legislation, CUB huddled with legal experts and former Gov. Pat Quinn to file a federal lawsuit alleging the utility engaged in “racketeering activities” and enriched itself “at the expense of Illinois utility customers.” This is part of an ongoing campaign to secure restitution for customers.

ComEd has already paid the government a $200 million fine, but that doesn’t help consumers who have suffered higher bills. This is a battle that could be fought on multiple fronts, including the courts and before the General Assembly.

$62+ Million in Rate Cuts

In filing its annual formula rate update before the ICC, ComEd proposed a $13.6 million decrease, but the judge in the case recommended a $14 million decrease. Ameren has also filed its annual electric formula rate update, and the judge in the case has recommended a $48.7 million decrease, a slightly higher decrease than the company’s initial filing ($45.3 million).

We’re glad to see both utilities asking for rate cuts, but we also know that consumers’ electric bills are still too high, and that’s why we’re trying to end formula rates before the General Assembly. In our 2020 Utility Customer Survey, almost 40 percent of respondents said that electric is their biggest bill.

We are also intervening in an Ameren gas rate case. The utility asked for an increase of about $100 million and a 10.5% Return on Equity (ROE) — the profit rate for shareholders. We’re hoping to reduce the increase by about $30 million.

At press time, these rate cases had not been decided.

3-2 Victory

CUB helped defeat a proposal before the ICC that would have allowed alternative energy suppliers to restart door-to-door sales during the pandemic.

CUB argued it was a bad idea because it could expose people to the virus and rip-offs. People used the CUB Action Network to send 1,000 messages to state regulators, who later voted 3-2 to keep the ban in place.

After the vote came down, CUB General Counsel Julie Soderna sent the entire staff an email with the subject line: “VICTORY FOR CONSUMERS!!”

285 Utility Bill Consultations

CUB staffer Foluke with a consumer at a Utility Bill Clinic

We’ve analyzed hundreds of bills this year to uncover potential savings. If you want to get your bills analyzed, email a copy of your most recent electric, natural gas, and telecom bills to ubc@citizensutilityboard.org (put “Attn: Virtual Utility Bill Clinic” in the subject line) or register for an upcoming Virtual Utility Bill Clinic.

2,000 Calls to CUB’s Consumer Hotline

If you call our hotline (1-800-669-5556) from 9-4, Monday through Friday, a member of our consumer advocacy department will take your call.

$57,000 Consumer Dollars Saved

By combining savings through our consumer advocacy cases and our utility bill consultations, CUB has saved consumers more than $57,000 this year alone. Over the last 36 years, CUB has saved consumers more than $20 billion.

582 Kilowatts of Solar to be Installed

A consumer with his new solar panels

The Solarize Chicagoland program surpassed its goals this year, achieving commitments to install more than 580 kilowatts of solar on 80 properties in the Chicago area. CUB and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) launched this solar “group buy” program in April.

In their first year of operation, Solarize Chicagoland’s newly-installed solar arrays will offset emissions equivalent to about 550,000 pounds of coal burned. Collectively, customers will save an estimated $79,000 on their electric bills in the first year.

Solarize Chicagoland uses the power of volume purchasing to make rooftop solar more accessible and more affordable for consumers in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Will Counties. Last year’s program resulted in new solar systems on 124 properties.

More Than $1 Billion Lost to Alternative Suppliers

Residential consumers have now lost more than $1 billion to alternative electric suppliers since 2015. More than 1.6 million consumers are signed up with alternative suppliers and are likely paying too much for their supply. CUB has alerted consumers that sticking with your regulated utility is likely your best bet.

CUB has fielded countless calls from consumers about misleading marketing and bad deals that charge double, triple or even worse for their electricity. Such reports led Illinois to pass the HEAT Act, one of the nation’s toughest consumer protection laws.

27,813 Messages From CUB supporters

CUB supporters sent 27,813 messages to state leaders in favor of consumer-friendly policy (like the Clean Energy Jobs Act) or opposed to bad legislation. Thank you for your activism! It makes a difference.

$1 Million Fine for Alternative Supplier

In May, the ICC fined alternative electricity supplier LifeEnergy $1 million and ordered more than $34,000 in customer refunds for “violations of state marketing and sales rules.”

“This is a major victory for Illinois consumers, who have been ripped off by alternative energy suppliers far too many times,” said CUB General Counsel Soderna, whose litigation team filed briefs in the case. “And this is an encouraging sign from the ICC. It’s a new day in Illinois: Misleading and abusive salesmanship won’t be tolerated.”

25 CUB Staffers, all working hard to fight for Illinois utility customers like you!