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    Late last month, Illinois utility company Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) released its latest update on electricity rates for its customers.

    The release was required by last year’s controversial smart meter bill, which allows ComEd and fellow utility company Ameren to raise standard electricity rates in order to help fund billions of dollars of investment in upgrading the grid.

    The utility announced that electricity prices are set to stay the same for the rest of the year, but could jump a bit by the start of 2013. The company projects that customers’ average electricity bills will rise by 97 cents for residential customers.

    “We realize that any increase may impact customers who are struggling to manage their household expenses,” Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd, said in a statement. “The $50 million assistance fund established under EIMA will provide programs for aid to senior citizens, low-income residents, active members of the armed services and reserve forces and disabled veterans.”

    However, with competition between retail electricity providers finally heating up in Illinois, customers could also find lower electricity rates by turning to a third part. PlugInIllinois reports that more than 411,000 residents have already chosen to switch electricity providers.