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    Electric bills could increase for Illinois customers next year. Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) has filed a request with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) for a rate hike to support its new SmartGrid system.

    ComEd proposed to increase charges by about $3 on the average monthly residential bill starting in January 2015. The filing marks ComEd’s fourth such request under the 2011 smart grid law that established a performance-based rate model to support modernizing the electric infrastructure serving northern Illinois.

    According to the Chicago-based utility, the rate increase reflects the costs of its grid modernization project, including the installation of smart meters. ComEd notes that as work on the program ramps down in future years, related delivery service increases will stabilize.

    The filing, ComEd adds, complies with the annual rate-setting process established by the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act. In each annual filing, utilities submit the previous year’s actual expenses and the current year’s projected capital investments.

    Although ComEd voices their good intentions with the rate hike, Illinois residents are leery. The Citizens Utility Board of Illinois (CUB) did not support the smart-grid legislation, citing too few consumer protections. The watchdog is now focused on reducing the yearly rate hikes as much as possible and pushing Ameren and ComEd to improve the power grid in a way that cuts future electric bills and improves reliability. CUB will take part in yearly reviews of utility spending and will protest any unjustified capital and operational expenditures.

    CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen commented the following:

    "Today, Commonwealth Edison asked for a $275 million rate hike to pay for upgrades to its power grid. These improvements, if done right, should pay for themselves in the long run, but the key moving forward is to hold ComEd accountable. That's why CUB will scrutinize every penny of this rate-hike request, and do our best to reduce it as much as possible. A rate increase is never welcome news for CUB or Illinois consumers, and that's why it's so important that ComEd live up to its promises of building a more reliable power grid that helps consumers cut their costs. Illinois consumers deserve the benefits, not just the bill."

    The ICC has eight months to make a determination on the rate request.