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    Electric rates are on the rise in Southern Illinois.

    The Illinois Commerce Commission approved an increase for electric distribution rates for Ameren Illinois in 2015 on Dec. 10.

    The rate hike will show a 17.4 percent increase for Ameren customers on the delivery portion of their bill.

    The amount customers will pay depends on different factors, including location and how much electricity is used, said Commission Spokesperson Beth Bosch. The increases will affect delivery charges or how much consumers pay to have electricity delivered.

    Ameren will see an overall increase in annual revenue of $204 million, which the power company says will go toward upgrading the smart grid.

    Ameren spokeswoman Marcelyn Love said customers have high expectations of reliability, and upgrading the system will help meet those expectations.

    “When they go to plug in their phones or computers, there is an expectation that the power comes on and we are being held accountable to meet those expectations," she said.

    The Citizens Utility Board has said it will make sure to keep Ameren accountable for making improvements.

    Board spokesman Jim Chilsen said the board is disappointed with the increase and plans to file a petition for a rehearing in the next 30 days.

    "This is bad news for consumers, and the rate hike is going to hit them in the heart of what could be another expensive winter season," he said.

    He said the idea of upgrading the power grid is a good thing, but the board is concerned about consumers paying too much.

    "Ameren has promised it will build a power grid that benefits consumers and helps them save money," Chilsen said. "Our job is to make sure Ameren lives up to that promise."

    Love said the increase only impacts the delivery service charge of the bill.

    "A bill is divided into a couple of different pieces. There is a delivery charge and a supply charge," she said. "The delivery service charge covers the costs of delivering the electricity to customers, meaning the wires, labor and other costs."

    She said Ameren must go in front of the Illinois Commerce Commission each year for an annual review of its electric delivery rate.

    Bosch said electric distribution rates are set annually, according to the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2011, which established a formula rate procedure to recover actual, prudently incurred costs for the delivery of electricity to customers.

    The increase starts in January. The Commission also approved an 11 percent increase for ComEd customers, a Chicago-basedutilitycompany.