Complaint alleges ComEd violated state law by raising fees on customer bills

Complaint alleges ComEd violated state law by raising fees on customer bills

By ANDREW ADAMS
Capitol News Illinois
aadams@capitolnewsillinois.com

A group of businesses filed a complaint with state regulators last week alleging that Chicago electric company Commonwealth Edison improperly raised customer bills this summer.

The complaint – centered on a portion of the 2021 Climate and Equitable Jobs Act that allows utilities to recoup carbon mitigation investments – alleges the utility failed to follow the proper regulatory channels laid out in Gov. JB Pritzker’s marquee climate policy.

The complaint was filed by the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, a trade group that lobbies for chemical businesses, alleging the change in billing will cost its roughly 100 member companies about $100 million combined between June 2023 and May 2024. Eight other groups are also listed as complainants, including Loyola Academy, a suburban Catholic school.

Read the ICC complaint

It’s the latest salvo in the industrial sector’s opposition to elements of CEJA. Other major business groups have long warned that CEJA could result in increased energy costs, especially to large industrial customers, which are among the biggest users of electricity. 

The Illinois Commerce Commission will consider the complaint, which could set a precedent allowing the oversight agency to have tighter control over how fees are calculated. All five of the commission’s members were appointed by Pritzker.

The fee at the center of the complaint is the “Carbon-Free Resource Adjustment,” or CFRA. The complaint alleges the fee was calculated without proper oversight and asks the ICC to order ComEd to stop using CFRA to recover costs and reimburse the complainants for any fees already collected this year. ComEd began collecting money from customers using CFRA in June.

While businesses filed the complaint, the CFRA charge appears on residential customers’ bills as well. ComEd serves 3.8 million residential customers and 400,000 non-residential customers, according to data from the ICC. For residential customers, this fee currently accounts for around 7 percent of total monthly bills, depending on local taxes and electric usage.

The hearing process, which is overseen by an administrative judge, could take up to a year unless the parties agree to an extension. The case will then be decided by the five governor-appointed commissioners of the ICC.

 

CEJA’s role

The authority to charge such a fee comes from a provision in CEJA that provided subsidies to nuclear power plants in an effort to save three aging plants from going offline.

The law outlined a program that allows the state to purchase energy in bulk from three of the state’s six nuclear power plants at fixed rates using a financial instrument called carbon mitigation credits, or CMCs, which are then sold to electric utilities.

This guaranteed income was intended to entice Exelon, the then-owner of Illinois’ nuclear fleet, to keep open several plants it had planned to close. In early 2022, Exelon – which remains ComEd’s parent company – spun out its nuclear generation arm into an independent company, Constellation Energy. Constellation’s executive team is entirely made up of former ComEd and Exelon executives and managers.

Under the CMC program, if the actual market rate for electricity is lower than the cost of CMCs, utilities can credit consumers for the difference – something they did last year, saving the average customer around $20 per month, according to a press release from Pritzker from the time. If the market rate is higher than the fixed price, utilities may add a charge to customer bills to make up the difference. 

 The complaint alleges that ComEd increased the CFRA charge to customers in June to include a “clawback” of money that was credited to customers last year in addition to compounded interest on those fees. This change was outlined in a set of revisions to the legal document outlining how ComEd calculates CFRA fees based on its “tariff” – the document that defines what rates utilities can charge. These revisions were not “suspended,” meaning the ICC held no formal hearings on the subject.

In a May 2023 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Exelon told federal regulators and investors that ComEd lost $1.1 billion due to the CMC program between June 2022 and March 2023.

The fact that ComEd determined losses on its own, the complainants allege, violated a provision of CEJA that requires those determinations to be reviewed by the ICC in an annual proceeding.

“As a result of ComEd’s lack of disclosure of the real nature of its filings of these tariff revisions with the Commission, no party had an opportunity to object to the massive impacts of ComEd’s revisions,” the complaint reads.

The business groups also allege ComEd’s maneuver violates the state’s Public Utilities Act as an act of “imprudent management” of the Carbon Free Resource Adjustment credits and charges.

“It was never reviewed, there were never any hearings on it, it’s a lot of money and our position is that it violates the law,” Patrick Giordano, a lawyer representing the business groups listed in the complaint, told Capitol News Illinois.

ComEd has denied impropriety in its use of the adjustment and CMCs.

“We are appropriately charging and crediting customers and have been clear about the CMCs and the charges and credits that implement them with the Commission and our customers,” Shannon Breymaier, ComEd’s head of communications, said in an email. “We’re still analyzing the complaint, but expect to vigorously defend our actions in implementing carbon mitigation credits.”

Constellation, which has attributed continued operations of three of Illinois’ nuclear plants to the CMC program, signaled caution regarding the program to its investors in a February regulatory filing with the SEC. In it, the company noted that “regulatory or legal” challenges like this were possible and that the company “cannot reasonably predict the outcome of any such challenges.”  

 

CEJA’s other effects  

The complaint is not the only matter before the ICC that will largely define the strength of CEJA’s regulatory backbone.

The commission is currently considering sets of plans from both ComEd and Ameren Illinois that set the utilities’ next four years of electric rates, infrastructure spending and long-term plans for the electric grid. These complex plans are the result of CEJA’s reforms to the state’s ratemaking process.

The ICC is expected to approve modified versions of these plans before the end of the year.

CEJA also opened the door for closer ICC oversight of utilities’ profit rates and the energy sector’s environmental impacts. This has attracted the attention of national and state-level advocacy groups.

Similarly, because of a requirement in CEJA, the ICC has requested all large gas and electric utilities in the state offer discounted energy rates to low-income customers. Consumer advocates are currently sparring with gas utilities over the question of how steep these discounts should be and who should be eligible for them in cases that are also expected to finish before the end of the year.

Electric utilities are expected to file low-income rate design plans in the coming years.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

 

Leave a Comment





Local News

Peggy Zabicki

Hot dog! This is a special week

Spread the love

Spread the love. By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 . I would like to start my column with the most important news. National Hot Dog Day is Wednesday, July 17 and is traditionally celebrated all week. I decided to suggest two West Lawn restaurants for celebrating…

GSWNH_HolidayInnRear_070524

Migrants coming to Ford City

Spread the love

Spread the love. Nearly a thousand coming this month to Holiday Inn . By Tim Hadac The Pritzker Administration is converting a vacant hotel in the Midway area to a shelter expected to house as many as 950 migrants. The action is occurring quickly, with migrants expected to move in this month. In a press…

CTAlogo

CTA hiring means more rail service

Spread the love

Spread the love. Orange Line sees 11% jump . From staff reports The Chicago Transit Authority has announced that because of what they described as continued, aggressive recruiting, hiring and training efforts, it has added 8.5% more scheduled rail service in recent weeks for a total of 9% more scheduled service added since April 2024.…

the leadershop logo

LeaderShop Alumni Association to host peaceful rally during Thursday board meeting

Spread the love

Spread the loveThe LeaderShop Alumni Association, a group of volunteers, previous staff members, former board members, funders, donors, and stakeholders who are community minded and energized by the mission of The LeaderShop, will host a peaceful rally in support of change to current leadership for the nonprofit agency. The rally will be held during The…

The Mariano’s store in Frankfort would be among the stores transferred to a new owner if the Kroger-Albertson’s merger is approved. (Photo by Bob Bong)

Comings & Goings: Palos Jewel, Oak Lawn Mariano’s to be sold in merger deal

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Kroger and Albertson’s this week released the list of stores the companies plan to sell, should a merger between the grocery giants be approved by regulators. Jewel Food Stores in Alsip and Palos Heights are among the stores listed for sale as well as Mariano’s locations in Oak Lawn, Orland Park, and…

The Oak Lawn Public Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., kicked off its adult and teen summer reading season with a Local Author Showcase featuring a book fair and 30 authors June 12. (Photos by Enrique Reyes, Courtesy of the Oak Lawn Public Library)

Oak Lawn Library hosts Local Author Showcase

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Oak Lawn Public Library opened its doors to the summer season and to its local authors. The library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., kicked off its adult and teen summer reading season with a Local Author Showcase featuring a book fair and 30 authors June 12. “Thirty authors, two hours, and…

CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound July 10, 2024

Spread the love

Spread the love

Palos Heights native Patrick Bertotelli won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest July 4 in New York. (Photo courtesy of Major League Eating)

Palos Heights native is top dog in famous eating contest

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva At one time, it may have seemed impossible for Palos Heights native Patrick Bertoletti to win the Nathan’s Hog Dog Eating contest. After all, Joey Chestnut was roasting opponents year after year by winning 16 titles since 2007 and had a streak of gobbling up championships eight years in a…

Palos Park Mayor Nicole Milovich-Walters is hoping a mobile DMV will return to the village after the July 15 visit was sold out. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

DMV sellout could mean a return visit in Palos Park

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Palos Park Clerk Marie Arrigoni announced that appointments for the one-day mobile Department of Motor Vehicles visit to Village Hall are sold out. That’s bad news for those residents who were looking forward to taking care of DMV business right there in town. But it was good news to Mayor…

Alan Morales

LeaderShop director faces more charges from former staffers

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports The LaGrange-based LeaderShop, a social service agency that recently lost $300,000 in funding, is facing new charges of a toxic work environment, bullying, and inappropriate behavior by Executive Director Alan Morales. Since the story was first published in the Desplaines Valley News on June 24, at least six women have…

Neighbors

Peggy Zabicki

Hot dog! This is a special week

Spread the love

Spread the love. By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 . I would like to start my column with the most important news. National Hot Dog Day is Wednesday, July 17 and is traditionally celebrated all week. I decided to suggest two West Lawn restaurants for celebrating…

GSWNH_HolidayInnRear_070524

Migrants coming to Ford City

Spread the love

Spread the love. Nearly a thousand coming this month to Holiday Inn . By Tim Hadac The Pritzker Administration is converting a vacant hotel in the Midway area to a shelter expected to house as many as 950 migrants. The action is occurring quickly, with migrants expected to move in this month. In a press…

CTAlogo

CTA hiring means more rail service

Spread the love

Spread the love. Orange Line sees 11% jump . From staff reports The Chicago Transit Authority has announced that because of what they described as continued, aggressive recruiting, hiring and training efforts, it has added 8.5% more scheduled rail service in recent weeks for a total of 9% more scheduled service added since April 2024.…

the leadershop logo

LeaderShop Alumni Association to host peaceful rally during Thursday board meeting

Spread the love

Spread the loveThe LeaderShop Alumni Association, a group of volunteers, previous staff members, former board members, funders, donors, and stakeholders who are community minded and energized by the mission of The LeaderShop, will host a peaceful rally in support of change to current leadership for the nonprofit agency. The rally will be held during The…

The Mariano’s store in Frankfort would be among the stores transferred to a new owner if the Kroger-Albertson’s merger is approved. (Photo by Bob Bong)

Comings & Goings: Palos Jewel, Oak Lawn Mariano’s to be sold in merger deal

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Kroger and Albertson’s this week released the list of stores the companies plan to sell, should a merger between the grocery giants be approved by regulators. Jewel Food Stores in Alsip and Palos Heights are among the stores listed for sale as well as Mariano’s locations in Oak Lawn, Orland Park, and…

The Oak Lawn Public Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., kicked off its adult and teen summer reading season with a Local Author Showcase featuring a book fair and 30 authors June 12. (Photos by Enrique Reyes, Courtesy of the Oak Lawn Public Library)

Oak Lawn Library hosts Local Author Showcase

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Oak Lawn Public Library opened its doors to the summer season and to its local authors. The library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., kicked off its adult and teen summer reading season with a Local Author Showcase featuring a book fair and 30 authors June 12. “Thirty authors, two hours, and…

CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound July 10, 2024

Spread the love

Spread the love

Palos Heights native Patrick Bertotelli won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest July 4 in New York. (Photo courtesy of Major League Eating)

Palos Heights native is top dog in famous eating contest

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva At one time, it may have seemed impossible for Palos Heights native Patrick Bertoletti to win the Nathan’s Hog Dog Eating contest. After all, Joey Chestnut was roasting opponents year after year by winning 16 titles since 2007 and had a streak of gobbling up championships eight years in a…

Palos Park Mayor Nicole Milovich-Walters is hoping a mobile DMV will return to the village after the July 15 visit was sold out. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

DMV sellout could mean a return visit in Palos Park

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Palos Park Clerk Marie Arrigoni announced that appointments for the one-day mobile Department of Motor Vehicles visit to Village Hall are sold out. That’s bad news for those residents who were looking forward to taking care of DMV business right there in town. But it was good news to Mayor…

Alan Morales

LeaderShop director faces more charges from former staffers

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports The LaGrange-based LeaderShop, a social service agency that recently lost $300,000 in funding, is facing new charges of a toxic work environment, bullying, and inappropriate behavior by Executive Director Alan Morales. Since the story was first published in the Desplaines Valley News on June 24, at least six women have…