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Shining a light on ComEd (and power grid operators)

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Did you know that your electric bills are affected not just by the local utility, like ComEd, but also by large power grid operators, like “PJM”?

PJM is the largest grid operator in the nation, managing the flow of electricity over high-voltage transmission lines that serve 65 million people from the Midwest to the East Coast. That includes ComEd customers in northern Illinois.

PJM is dominated by generators, transmission companies and electric utilities (like ComEd) that vote on power grid policies that have a huge impact on how reliable, clean and affordable our electricity is. But many of those votes are secret!  That’s why CUB is pushing this transparency legislation: Illinois House Bill 4747.

HB 4747 would require Illinois utilities like ComEd to submit a report to state regulators revealing the votes they cast at grid operator meetings. They also would have to explain how those votes are in the public interest. This is about healthy democracy and holding utilities and grid operators accountable: Please take Action.

This legislation would cover Ameren Illinois and MidAmerican Energy also. Those utilities are part of another power-grid operator called MISO, or the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. Unlike PJM, MISO considers all votes to be a matter of public record, except for the selection or removal of committee chairs and vice chairs. However, it is difficult to track down the voting information, so this bill improves access to information in MISO as well. (You shouldn’t have to be an expert to find voting data.)

This idea is catching fire across the country. CUB reported last month, when the bill was first introduced, that consumer advocates were fighting for similar legislation in four other states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

“When utilities vote at regional transmission organizations, they have impacts on our clean energy transition and the cost of electricity,” said Rep. Joyce Mason, the chief sponsor of the Illinois bill. “My bill introduces better transparency for how utilities vote in our electric markets, which is part of a healthy democracy. As a legislator, my votes are public – it should be the same for utilities whose votes impact the affordability and cleanliness of our electricity. ”

To learn more about our special project to hold PJM accountable, visit our Consumers for a Better Grid website. Also, watch our video and read our explainers on transmission and capacity.