Legislation paves way for ComEd and Ameren to raise electricity rates

Commonwealth Edison and Ameren customers will be on the hook to pay higher electricity rates under a measure headed to Governor Pat Quinn. Legislators rushed to pass the proposal at the utilities' behest.A state law that took effect two years ago was supposed to have already allowed the companies to charge higher rates.

Instead, rulings from state regulators got in the way. Supporters say this, new measure clears up any ambiguity about that law. It will allow ComEd and Ameren to retroactively hike rates, and charge interest.In exchange, the companies will upgrade the state's electric grid. Representative Patti Bellock, a Republican from Hinsdale says the so-called "Smart Grid" modernization is a smart investment.

"I think this is one of the things that will help Illinois grow its economy with the infrastructure that it needs.  All of the major companies look towards that infrastructure,” Bellock says.

But consumer advocates say the proposal's real objective is to boost ComEd and Ameren's profits. While Governor Pat Quinn opposes the plan, the legislation passed both chambers of the General Assembly with veto -proof majorities.