Electricity customers in northern Illinois will see higher bills next year after the Illinois Commerce Commission on Wednesday said Commonwealth Edison may increase the amount it charges to distribute power.
ComEd may collect an additional $340 million, largely to offset its cost to help modernize the electric grid. The company said that will translate into $5.50 extra per month for the average customer, beginning in January, though the increase may be offset by an overall decline in electric bills since 2012 because of low energy prices.
The decision comes nine days after the ICC ordered Ameren, which serves central and southern Illinois, to decrease electricity rates by $45 million after determining the company had over-collected.
In another ruling, the ICC said Wednesday that Ameren may increase natural gas delivery rates by about $32 million a year. An Ameren spokeswoman says the company doesn't yet know how much the natural gas increases will cost the average customer.
Ameren has about 1.2 million electricity customers and about 800,000 natural gas customers.
The two utilities are undertaking a $3.2 billion project to modernize and "storm-harden" Illinois' power grid over the next 10 years to make it more efficient and reliable.
That includes installing millions of digital "smart" meters, wireless devices that relay information on electricity consumption directly to utilities. ComEd will switch all 4 million of its northern Illinois customers to the new devices by 2021. Ameren Illinois will begin doing the same downstate next year.
The utilities also are replacing aging cables and poles and installing devices that can automate distribution to help reroute power around trouble areas and reduce the number of outages.