On Thursday, May 26, the House Energy & Environment and Public Utilities Committees held a joint hearing at the Capitol to discuss rising energy prices for Ameren customers in downstate Illinois.
Ameren Illinois customers received an email Wednesday warning about higher prices on the horizon this summer. State lawmakers had the opportunity to ask energy leaders why this is happening and what they could do to help Thursday.
“The primary reason you will see an increase in your monthly bill is because of the increase in the electric supply costs, which are collected on your utility bill and paid directly to power generators,” the utility wrote to customers. “Ameren Illinois does not profit from these charges.”
Jim Blessing, the vice president of regulatory policy and energy supply, told lawmakers this hike was caused by inflation, the Russian war in Ukraine, and coal plants closing. Ameren customers can expect a $58 increase from June to September. They will also pay $49 more during the non-summer months. 1.2 million customers will be impacted by the hike that could cost $430 more annually. “A customer who uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year will see a $626 annualized increase on the power supply side of their bill or an increase of approximately $52 per month,” Blessing said. […] Many people are already preparing for the possibility of brownouts and blackouts. Rep. Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) has a generator for backup power on his farm, but he knows that many homeowners don’t have that option. “I had to spend close to $20,000 last week to make sure that my livestock will be able to survive if I’m not there to turn on the generator,” Meier said. “All of our small businesses and our farms are going to have to do that because we’re living in a state where we’ve taken our destiny away from ourselves.” Experts from MISO Energy say there is a gap between when fossil fuel facilities close and when there is enough replacement capacity online to power communities. “We’re seeing a lot more retirements coming quicker, for whatever reason, than we’re seeing generation be able to get online,” said Melissa Seymour, vice president of external affairs for MISO. “The gap could be filled with numerous things. It could be filled with wind and solar. It could be filled with hydrogen in the future.” Seymour says MISO believes it will become worse before it gets better. Several downstate lawmakers have been telling Democratic leaders that Illinois needed to prepare for this type of crisis over the past several years. “Our constituents are worried, and they should be worried,” said Rep. Amy Elik (R-Alton). “Reliability is the most important factor. It means nothing if we don’t have reliability.” “We are facing an immediate crisis,” said State Representative Dan Caulkins, (R-Decatur). “This starts next week, June first. Our electric bills will soar.” Electricity costs will soar beginning in June in central and southern Illinois, due to inadequate power supplies following coal-fired plant closures. Ameren Illinois is within the MISO grid covering much of downstate Illinois. Critics of policies phasing out coal and natural gas in favor of renewable power are seeing their doomsday forecasts start to come true far faster than even they thought. The price shock downstate also hands Republicans who didn’t support Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s sprawling, costly Climate & Equitable Jobs Act, or CEJA, last year an issue in the upcoming election. The statute requires the closure of all fossil fuel power plants in Illinois no later than 2045. Effectively, it’s made the usual method of addressing power-supply shortages—construction of new natural gas-fired plants—uneconomic and significantly reduced the tools available to address the shortage that’s emerged. Rep. Batinick proposes solutions for high gas prices in Illinois. In response to skyrocketing gas prices in Illinois, State Representative Mark Batinick produced a new video proposing solutions to alleviate this problem for middle and lower income Illinoisans. His video highlighted his recently introduced legislation on this issue, House Bill 5723, in particular. “Illinoisans are being hurt by high gas prices we are experiencing today,” said Rep. Batinick. “What is not helping is Illinois’ current system of charging a percentage-based additional sales tax on top of a per-gallon gas tax. I introduced House Bill 5723 to provide immediate relief for those who are disproportionately hurt by the current system. This legislation will provide more lasting, meaningful relief than the motor fuel tax increase pause we passed during our spring session. We need to debate and consider this legislation to provide needed relief for Illinoisans.” House Bill 5723 caps the sales tax on gas at 18 cents per gallon for motor fuel. During this recent spring session, the bill was not released from the House Rules Committee, preventing debate on it. According to AAA, the Chicago Metro area experienced the highest regular unleaded gasoline price on May 22nd at $5.203 and the highest diesel price on the same day at $5.313.