Champaign City Council to fight energy rate increase

By Patrick Wade

Tuesday night, the Champaign City Council discussed:

An alternative storm water management system, called low impact development, which uses natural elements like rain gardens to protect against floods. No vote was taken, but the Council will consider the system for future developments.

The city auditor’s report that the city’s financial position and practices in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles. The Council unanimously voted to pursue additional recommendations made by the auditor.

The Champaign City Council unanimously agreed in Tuesday night’s study session to pursue an intervention in the Illinois Commerce Commission’s review of a local energy supplier.

On Dec. 5, Ameren Corporation, the primary gas and electric utility for central Illinois, filed a request with the Illinois Commerce Commission to significantly raise their electric delivery rates. The utility provides energy to most central Illinois residents, the University and Champaign.

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The rate increase will only affect delivery rates, or the “wires and poles” part of the electric bill, said Deputy City Attorney Trisha Crowley. The city expects to see about a 45 percent increase in that portion of the bill.

The commission’s review is an 11-month process in which any interested party m

ay intervene. The city’s testimony must be prepared and filed by March 18.

Currently, the city’s total electric bill is about $600,000 annually, much of which stems from street lights. Crowley said much of the city’s testimony in the intervention will center around the cost of the street lights.

“Street lighting is a very significant portion of our electric bill,” Crowley said. “You can think of what is the cost of lighting (a city building) compared to the hundreds and even thousands of street lights that we lease and we own.”

The city has previously dealt with an Ameren rate request when the utility went through the Illinois Commerce Commission’s review process in 2006. The city intervened in that case, and Crowley said it softened the cost of the rate hike.

“I would expect the city of Champaign to be right in there fighting for our citizens at every rate increase request forever more,” said At-Large Council member Thomas Bruno. “The utility is in there fighting for their interest. We ought to be at that table too.”