Ameren IP looking to raise prices

By Eric Heisig

Champaign-Urbana residents may be seeing their electric and gas bills rise soon, thanks to a proposed rate increase by Ameren IP, the area’s electric and gas company. Ameren has proposed a $247 million delivery rate increase to the Illinois Commerce Commission. If the proposal is approved, customers could see their bills increase as much as $12 per month.

According to Leigh Morris, Ameren spokesperson, the average customer who uses electricity for everything (except for heating) will see a $7.75 increase on his or her bill.

A natural heating customer will pay an additional $8.67 a month.

Finally, if a person uses electricity for everything, he or she will pay an extra $11.33 per month.

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, has been outspoken on the issue.

During a Feb. 28 ICC hearing, Jakobsson pointed out that Ameren contributed $150 million to a rate relief package signed into law last year.

She said the bill was a struggle to get passed, and the legislators worked with consumers in order to help them.

“It should be noted that their current request is at $247 million,” Jakobsson said. “This is negating any contribution to rate relief efforts for its consumers.”

Morris said the new proposed increase is for delivery rates, which includes services like, electrical wires, employees, trucks and substations.

“What you pay for when you pay for electricity is strictly a pass-through cost,” Morris said. “We charge you what we pay for.”

Morris said this proposal is also to aid Ameren in paying for a project to improve services and facilities.

“We will have spent about $900 million on reliability and other related projects through the year 2010,” Morris said. “Our profit comes out of that.”

Still, it is unlikely the ICC will give Ameren everything it asks for.

“I cannot remember a time when the commission gave us 100 percent,” Morris said.

Beth Bosch, spokeswoman for the ICC, said the staff and intervening parties will file their testimonies on March 14, but the stance the commission will take will not be announced until sometime this summer.

The ICC must make its decision on the program by September. Between now and then, testimony will be heard from both sides of the issue, and the ICC will make a decision on Ameren’s needs.

Morris said if it is approved, the new rates will be in effect late October, or Nov. 1 at the latest.