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Chicago ComEd customers to be charged more for electricity in coming years

Chicagoans will see a portion of their electricity bills rise in coming years because of new electric grid rules tied to the polar vortex, according to power auction results that were made public Friday.

The auction will increase part of the average ComEd residential customer’s electricity bill in 2018-19 by roughly $82 a year compared with what customers are paying now, and by about $100 a year compared with what they might pay in 2017-18, according to industry experts. The increases per month in the ComEd region are about two to three times greater than what some analysts had been predicting.

The auction, which is held every year and sets prices three years in advance, was the first to implement the controversial rules that were approved after the extreme winter of 2013-14, when grid operators had to scramble to keep the lights on. The rules allow power plants in northern Illinois and other states to make more money from consumers in order to shore up electricity in frigid weather.

But critics have argued that the electric grid, while stressed, did not actually fail during the polar vortex and that the approach may be misguided and flawed, potentially ballooning costs by several billions dollars over the next few years without stabilizing the electricity available to consumers in severe weather.

Indeed, electricity generators and others in Chicago’s regional grid system, which stretches from northern Illinois to the Atlantic Ocean, pulled in an additional $3.4 billion this year over last, according to the PJM Interconnection, which manages the grid.

Driving prices even higher in the Commonwealth Edison region was a reduction in energy supply caused by limitations on imports, as well as Exelon’s Quad Cities nuclear plant failing to be picked in the auction for the second year in a row.

The Citizens Utility Board on Friday labeled the results as “one more red flag” that the auction has simply become a way for generators to make windfall profits.

“(Consumers) face significantly higher electric bills because of a flawed power-pricing system,” the group said in a statement. “Illinois’ electricity market is not working well for consumers.”

Read full story at The Chicago Tribune