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Senate to take up resolution defending larger ComEd rate hike

Downed power lines along Nagel alongside Ridgemoor Country Club Harwood Heights cause power outages June 22 surrounding homes businesses. |

Downed power lines along Nagel alongside the Ridgemoor Country Club in Harwood Heights cause power outages June 22 in the surrounding homes and businesses. | Allen Kaleta~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 30, 2012 3:59PM

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate advanced a measure Wednesday that amounts to a symbolic protest against state utility regulators for forcing deep rate cuts on Commonwealth Edison, which the utility claims have hindered its ability to implement a legislatively backed modernization of its electricity distribution grid.

The resolution sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) passed the Senate Executive Panel by a 14-0 vote and now moves to the floor of the legislative chamber for possible action Thursday.

Action in May and October by the Illinois Commerce Commission lowered rates such that ComEd will be getting about $100 million per year less than it is seeking to reinvest in modernization of its distribution system in 2014 and thereafter.

The utility has challenged the ICC orders at the Illinois Appellate Court, a legal action which Cullerton’s resolution seems intent upon bolstering.

Cullerton said he believes the ICC action “misinterpreted” the intent of smart-grid legislation that passed 11 months ago in a way that “ComEd and Ameren can’t implement the bill.”

“It is something that would be admissible in court,” Cullerton said of the non-binding resolution. “We’re trying to re-pass the [smart-grid] bill again through a resolution.”

The conflict prolongs a hard-fought campaign ComEd waged last year for a $2.6 billion plan to upgrade its electric grid over a 10-year period, including hiring more women- and minority-owned companies to help with the work, upgrading substations to allow faster responses to power outages and installing digital “smart” meters to let people save money by changing when and how they use electricity. ComEd said its work so far on the grid created more than 700 jobs from January through September.

Testifying for the resolution, ComEd President Anne Pramaggiore told the Senate Executive Committee that the ICC has hamstrung efforts to modernize the utility’s distribution grid.

“I’m disappointed to report that because of the first round of rate case rulings, grid modernization is precipitously losing altitude at a time when it should be gaining altitude,” she said.

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