SPRINGFIELD -- A request from the Ameren Illinois utility companies to boost power-delivery rates fell flat Wednesday with the state’s utility regulator.

           By ADRIANA COLINDRES


           STATE CAPITOL BUREAU


          


           SPRINGFIELD -- A request from the Ameren Illinois utility companies to boost power-delivery rates fell flat Wednesday with the state’s utility regulator.



           The Illinois Commerce Commission’s 4-0 vote means Ameren may not further increase those rates to recover an estimated $50.3 million in projected expenses for administrative and other items.



           The increase could have resulted in higher delivery charges on the electric bills of more than 1 million AmerenCIPS, AmerenCILCO and AmerenIP customers.


           The $50.3 million would have been on top of a $97 million delivery-rate increase the ICC approved late last year.



           Two years ago, Ameren filed paperwork with the ICC asking for a $200 million delivery-rate increase. ICC staff later proposed a $148 million hike, but the commission in November revised that recommendation, making further cuts and authorizing a smaller increase — worth $97 million.



           Ameren then filed an appeal with the ICC, seeking the additional $50.3 million.


           Members of the commission said Wednesday that Ameren failed to make a convincing case for the higher amount.



           Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris said the company is “disappointed by their decision.”



           “This certainly leaves us in a situation where there are costs that are not being recovered,” he added.



           Delivery rates deal with the cost of distributing power. They do not deal with the cost of the electricity itself.



           The state’s 1997 electric deregulation law included a rate freeze that expired this year. An auction-style process conducted last year set future wholesale electricity rates for Ameren and Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison.



           Also Wednesday, the ICC approved components of ComEd’s $64 million rate-relief package for consumers hit hard by higher electricity costs this year.



           For instance, the commission granted ComEd’s request to proceed with a plan to give one-time credits to residential customers who use electricity to heat their homes. The credits, which should start appearing on June bills, will total $33 for customers in multi-family residences and $64 for customers in single-family homes.



           The total value of the credits is an estimated $8 million.



           Not all components of the ComEd package require ICC approval. ComEd’s plans also include spending $10.3 million for summer bill credits for eligible low-income customers, $5.5 million for grants to residential consumers who meet low-income eligibility requirements and $3.9 million to beef up an existing weatherization program.



           But ComEd has said it will kill the rate-relief programs if the General Assembly passes legislation to roll back and freeze electric rates to their 2006 levels.



           Ameren also has put together a rate-relief plan for its customers. But Ameren says it will not implement the plan until it is certain lawmakers won’t enact a rate rollback and freeze.



           Legislative talks about how to deal with the problem of electricity costs apparently are ongoing, but no one has described them as making much progress.


 


           ComEd and Ameren say a rate freeze would threaten their finances, and both companies have said they would head to court to fight implementation of such legislation.


          


           Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or adriana.colindres@sj-r.com.


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