Chicago-area residents may see higher electricity bills beginning as early as next summer due to new rules prompted by the extreme cold of the Polar Vortex two years ago.
The new rules, which will not fully take effect until 2020, were created after nearly a quarter of power producers in the Chicago regional electric grid became inoperable due to a frigid day when temperatures dropped well below zero, according to the Chicago Tribune.
ComEd, as well as all other companies that distribute electricity in the Chicago area, will be affected by the new rules.
Customers could see increases of as little as a few dollars per month or as high as $12 per month, according to the Tribune. Next summer, customers could begin seeing small increases, but they likely will not see significant hikes until 2018.
The new rules allow power companies to charge more so they can have extra money and power in reserve in case of future Polar Vortexes, but opponents of the rule change say they are wary of that tactic.
"There's nothing in the rules that guarantee that the money that power producers get through this rule change will actually be used to make the system more reliable," said Jim Chilsen of the Citizens Utility Board.
The rule change is meant to make power suppliers more reliable when they are needed most. Exelon, which would benefit from the price increase, called the new rules "critical" because the extra money would go toward improving power plant reliability.
"These critical reforms will increase electric reliability now and in years to come by paying only those power plants that deliver on their commitments and imposing financial penalties on those that don't, especially during extreme weather conditions," Paul Elsberg, a spokesperson for Exelon, said.
Chilsen, however, says raising prices is the wrong focus.
"We need a greater emphasis on energy efficiency," Chilsen said. "We don't need to give power generators a potential windfall."