Refunds start Wednesday to give relief after massive electric rate hike


 

Ameren customers in Illinois soon will get checks or credits as part of a $1 billion electric rate relief plan.


 


About $120 million in checks for 935,000 residential electric customers who are current on their payments will be mailed starting Wednesday, continuing for four to six weeks.


 


Those behind in payments by more than 60 days — about 133,000 customers in Illinois — will get credits on their bills instead of checks, totaling about $20 million.


 


In total, Ameren is giving out about $140 million in checks or credits to 1.1 million accounts, said Stan Ogden, vice president of customer service and public relations. "Our customers have asked for rate relief and we are delivering it," Ogden said Monday at a news conference detailing the plan at AmerenCILCO’s office in Peoria.


 


The amount of a customer’s individual check or credit depends on that customer’s electricity usage, Ogden said. Customers can find out how much they get by going to Ameren’s Web site, www.ameren.com. AmerenCILCO customers also can call 1-888-672-5252.


 


All residential customers will receive an initial credit or check of at least $85 in the next month, and then a minimum of $5 credit each month for October, November and December, for a total of at least $100 for 2007. A typical residential customer who doesn’t heat with electricity will see a credit of about $130 for the year, Ogden said.


 


Customers who heat with electricity will get about $400, as they were hit hardest when electric rate increases went into effect in January, Ogden said, adding many customers with all-electric homes saw increases of $750 to $1,200 this year.


 


Customers who use very large amounts of electricity will see credits of $1,000 or more.


 


About 13,000 small business and not-for-profit customers whose 2007 rate increases exceeded 40 percent will receive credits to scale back their increases to 40 percent, he said.


 


"The point is that we want to get these dollars out for those customers who have experienced those substantial increases," Ogden said. "The increase they experienced in January was huge."


 


Credits will continue in 2008 and 2009 to limit rate increases in those years, he said, and to help get customers accustomed to the market price of electricity, which makes up the bulk of a customer’s bill.


 


About 25 percent to 30 percent of a residential customer’s bill is for delivery of electricity. Ameren’s Illinois utilities plan to file for a delivery service rate increase later this year, to pay for improvements and enhancements the company has made to its delivery system, Ogden said.


 


The company said it won’t increase delivery rates by more than 9 percent in 2008 or 2009.


 


Ogden said the delivery service rate increase request must be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, which takes about 11 months, so the delivery rate increase won’t go into effect until later in 2008.


 


The checks and credits are a part of a $1 billion rate relief package agreed to by Ameren, Commonwealth Edison and state lawmakers to help ease the impact of the huge spike in electric rates in Illinois in January when a 10-year rate freeze was lifted.


 


Other details of the rate relief plan include:


 


n Millions of dollars in assistance for low-income customers, senior citizens, small businesses, not-for-profit groups;


 


n Ameren Illinois utilities agreed to enter into contracts for a portion of their power requirements from 2008 to 2012 to minimize potential fluctuations in future price increases;


 


n The Illinois Power Agency, will design a system to procure power for the Ameren Illinois utilities beginning in June 2009, subject to ICC approval;


 


n State lawmakers agreed not to pass legislation that would freeze or reduce electric rates or impose a tax, special assessment or fee on electricity generators through Aug. 1, 2011.


 


Anita Szoke can be reached at (309) 686-3248 or aszoke@pjstar.com.