Ameren Rate Relief For Illinois, Your Rebate Checks Are In The Mail

When Robert Hancock of Carterville, IL got his monthly power bill, it made him mad. Why? Because it was $526.62—up 200% from the previous month.

Illinois’ 10-year electric rate freeze had expired and Ameren, the company that supplies power to Carterville and a huge swath of the rest of Illinois, raised its rates. A lot.

Robert decided to fight back by arranging to pay his bill entirely in pennies. 52,662 of them. Now it seems that Robert’s “eff you” to Ameren was not in vain. From Forbes:

Ameren officials announced Monday that they’ll be sending out $140 million in rebate checks and bill credits starting this week, promising each customer at least $85 back in the mail.

Starting Wednesday, checks will be sent to 935,000 residential customers and continue for a month, closely synched to the company’s billing cycle. Credits will show up on bills sent to 133,000 residential customers behind in payments by at least two months and bills for 13,000 small business owners.

Ameren hopes the announcement is the start of a public image turnaround after a year of battering. Customers were caught off guard by huge rate increases in January after a 10-year rate freeze, and the backlash forced Ameren and ComEd to cut back the increases.

“Our customers have asked for rate relief and we are delivering it,” Stan Ogden, an Ameren vice president in charge of customer service, said in a statement.

The checks and credits are part of a $1 billion rate relief package negotiated by the utilities and state lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Rod Blagojevich two weeks ago to ease the customer outrage.

Hooray for consumer outrage!

Ameren customers can expect at least $100 back in rebates and credits, but more will be coming depending on how much electricity you consume and if you use electricity to heat your home. ComEd customers can expect some relief as well. According to ComEd’s spokesperson, ComEd customers will see a $60 credit on their October bills and $7 a month after that. If you don’t see a credit on your bill, you’ll want to contact ComEd to complain.

Ameren Customers to Receive Rebates [Forbes]

(Photo:C. Barr)

Comments

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  1. blue_duck says:

    Congrats to Illinios customers, even though Ameren still continues to screw Missouri residents every chance they get..

  2. ancientsociety says:

    What a joke.

    Our electric bill tripled after the rate freeze ended (we have ComEd) and these “credits” will make little to no difference

  3. qwickone says:

    @ancientsociety: It’s obviously an uphill battle, but at least it’s a step in the right direction…

  4. mikesfree says:

    exactly as above. This is still crap for the people of Illinois

  5. mikesfree says:

    @qwickone:

    No, its crap

  6. ludwigk says:

    After a 10 year freeze, rates are guaranteed to go up, just to keep in line with increased taxes and inflation. Of course, its clear that Ameren took the de-freeze as an opportunity to gouge customers who likely do not have a choice in terms of their utilities providers. Way to be a jerk about it.

  7. travisw says:

    Didn’t the Public Utilities Commission have to approve the rate hike? Where is the outrage there?

  8. The Stork says:

    @ludwigk: “After a 10 year freeze, rates are guaranteed to go up, just to keep in line with increased taxes and inflation.”

    Exactly. While Ameren might have raised rates a little too much, there’s no question that the people wanting to roll them back to the frozen rates are on crack. Adjusting for inflation, rates should be up a lot from when they were frozen. Illinoisans just didn’t have a decade to slowly acclimate themselves to the rising energy prices.

  9. Murph1908 says:

    I am not one to blame the consumer…

    But I think it would be funny as hell if Mr. Hancock got 8500 pennies as his rebate.

    Even if I were Mr. Hancock, I’d think that would be funny as hell.

  10. pgaulrapp says:

    It seems that they (Ameren) are trying to pass this off as their own idea. Actually, the Governer and legislature have been working on this since the rate hike in January.

    My bill went up by about 50%, but since I have Commonwealth Edison, I won’t be getting a rebate check, just a bill credit.

  11. enm4r says:

    @Murph1908: I agree, that’d be awesome.

    Also, what area’s specifically does this affect? All? I have ComEd, and while I don’t particularly have anything to complain about I’d like to know if I can expect any credits.

  12. mopar_man says:

    After a 10 year freeze, rates are guaranteed to go up, just to keep in line with increased taxes and inflation.

    That’s true but this is way out of line. I’ve never paid more than $150/month for electricity. That includes a computer running 24/7, an electric hot water heater and poor windows/insulation.

  13. hwyengr says:

    @pstork:
    Annual inflation doesn’t exist in a commodity market. Except for recent gains due to ethanol production, the market price of corn hadn’t changed in nearly 30 years. In ComEd’s perspective, I doubt the price of Uranium has increased as much as their rates have increased.

  14. “Ameren customers can expect at least $100 back in rebates and credits”

    You left out the part where Ameren is now increasing their delivery charge since they can’t increase the rates to the ass-raping level they wanted.

    (AmerenCILCO, for those of you who aren’t getting screwed by them, generates its own electricity and sells it to itself at a hefty profit. Then resells it to us for even more profit. Ameren’s being investigated by the state for some serious shadiness in its whole “generate and sell to itself” scheme. Basically they claimed they “needed” higher rates because their “supplier” was charging them so much more for generation of electricity, neglecting to add their “supplier” was, oh wait, STILL THEM, just a separate line in the accounting book.)

    AmerenCILCO is also the only available natural gas supplier locally and that’s not free of the shadiness either. It really doesn’t matter if you heat with electric or gas; they’re going to screw you.

  15. Illusio26 says:

    My electric bill went up a lot too. I’d be more open to the rate increases if we had a choice of our supplier. I’m in the chicago suburbs and its ComEd or nothing. In fact, with most of our utilites companies, we get no choice. Take what they give you and like it.

  16. @enm4r: “Also, what area’s specifically does this affect?”

    The entire state of Illinois. Ameren covers 309, 217, and 618, a big chunk of 815. ComEd covers 312/708/847/630 (and their overlays, of course) and the rest of 815. :)

  17. consumerd says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    I have been following that as well. I hope the PUC fines the shit out of them for eternity for it. You don’t complain about not having enough money, put up rate increases from your own supplied suppliers and then run to wall street stating you have a lot more money.

    Sorry, that’s called GREED last time I checked. I could be wrong, but that’s what I heard it was called. I hope the PUC shoves their hot poker so far up AmerenUE’s ass that it makes their head spin and beg for mommy.

    I for one am a consistent financial contributor to the group that sends the envelope with your license renewal statement.

  18. RTFMate says:

    The bill is crap for consumers in Illinois.

    Ameren owner of a giant pair of balls. Has also asked the commission to increase their delivery fee for electricity today along with sending checks out.

    stltoday has an article on it.

  19. protest says:

    so this is the part where the outrage leads to people installing solar panels and/or investing in stationary fuel cells to heat and light their homes and sell the extra back to the grid, thus freeing them from ass raping utility companies forever. no? oh, well, carry on then.

  20. @protest: It’s in the pipeline for us, although we’re waiting another couple generations of technology before we make the leap (improvements are coming so fast right now, and prices are starting to drop). Our roof is pretty new and generally if you’re installing roof-mounted solar it’s cheapest and environmentally-friendliest to do it when you’re replacing all or part of the roof anyway. We’re also looking at roof-mounted turbines, but those definitely need another technology generation or three before they’re quite ready for prime-time.

  21. mrosedal says:

    All I have to say is it is about time. I can’t wait for the check!

  22. The Stork says:

    @hwyengr: You’re really telling me that no costs, like maintenance of plants, delivery, payroll to employees, et cetera doesn’t rise over time? Really? Linemen get paid the same as ten years ago? And ten before that?

  23. Geekybiker says:

    Mmmm I wondered why I had over a $100 electric bill from last month. I mean it was hot, but I had never seen one for more than about $60 previously.

  24. Chicago7 says:

    @mopar_man:

    No, the reason for the 10 year freeze was so ComEd could hold back the competition on residential properties.

    Taxes aren’t part of the freeze and are separate on your bill.

    I saw recently that the ComEd dividend went down from its usual $2 a share to a much smaller number (I forget and it’s too late to look it up).

    My bill went up from $40 to $100 in June, as well. I, too, thought it was just the air conditioning, which I’ve never used before.

  25. mikesfree says:

    what if we all paid in pennies?

  26. timmus says:

    “Our customers have asked for rate relief and we are delivering it,” Stan Ogden, an Ameren vice president in charge of customer service, said in a statement.

    “My victim has asked for relief and I am delivering it,” said Harry Johnson, area mugger, handing the victim $5 out of the stolen wallet and walking off.

  27. Buran says:

    @blue_duck: You should see what the tree in my front yard looked like when they were done with it. They even trespassed onto my property to cut it! Now I know branches need to be trimmed to keep them off power lines but you need to ASK PEOPLE BEFORE YOU GO INTO THEIR YARD! And I’m not just talking about the easement that is the sidewalk, either.

  28. DjDynasty says:

    Complete and utter crap, I got that first electric bill, calcuated the price for the remainder of 2007, cut down all my tree’s and put solar panels on my roof. The cost of that alone is cheaper than 3 years of electric, and honestly, I’d nice to get a check from ComEd every month for the excess I put onto the grid.

  29. GoBobbyGo says:

    There’s two things I haven’t seen mentioned here that I think are relevant.

    First is that the 10-year rate freeze wasn’t put in place just because Illinois consumers are mean – it was because ComEd and Ameren were gouging consumers so badly they got caught breaking the law – the freeze was part of the penalty.

    Second is that the utilities’ justification for the new increases now that the freeze is off is a load of crap. They say it’s based on what they’re paying for energy on the open market after getting bids from several providers. They’re conveniently forgetting to mention that those several providers are all owned by the same parent company as they are.

  30. swalve says:

    @pgaulrapp: That’s funny, because the rates only increased by 25%.

    I can’t wait for the California-style rolling blackouts because the Governor can’t pass a budget and used the electric rates to “wag the dog” on his ineptitude.

  31. @GoBobbyGo: Let’s also take a moment to recall that ComEd is SO FUCKING INEPT that the feds had to come in after Sept. 11 and put guards on the largest nuclear reactor near a major population center because ComEd COULDN’T FIGURE OUT THE CONCEPTS OF TERRORISM OR NIGHT GUARDS.

    (And growing up in the burbs I totally thought ComEd was inept … until I moved downstate and learned that Ameren DEFINES the word “inept.” Their blizzard plan is to drive trucks in from Missouri when there’s a bizzard in Illinois. Because a) snowstorms NEVER hit two contiguous states at once and b) roads NEVER close in blizzards. This is why we were all without fucking power last year when it snowed!)

  32. zundian says:

    The reason that some people’s bills increased 200%? In addition to the rate freeze ending, Ameren decided to discontinue the “all-electric” discount that I guess the majority of new construction qualified for.

    My bill actually decreased because the base electrical rate went down, while the cut-off point for the “volume discount” rate went up.

    I hadn’t really noticed a change until the past couple of months, but then it’s been really hot this summer as well, and my windows are shot.

  33. bombaxstar says:

    618 representin`. =[

    Ameren is terrible. “CIPS dropped the load” is a common phrase in my house [when the electricity goes out].

  34. Schmee says:

    @pstork:

    My Energy bill doubled, at the rate hike, while my energy consumption stayed the same. After lowering my energy consumption (I wasn’t overly wateful but I changed what I could) my bills are still about $200 a month, and I imagine I’m rather frugal when it comes to electricty in my home.

  35. @travisw: “Didn’t the Public Utilities Commission have to approve the rate hike?”

    I don’t think anyone answered this yet (if they did I missed it), but the “approval” was 10 years ago in some lame-ass deregulation legislation carried out in a typically shady Illinois-politics fashion.

    The PUC, the state AG, the citizens utility board, and apparently a NEW commission the governor wants to create are ALL leaping on the rate hikes (or at least the shady and/or illegal parts of the rate hikes).

    We all knew 10 years ago this was shit legislation, but there was no immediate effect so it was passable, and now the folks to blame are long gone. (And, this being Illinois, half of them are in jail anyway for misdeeds committed in office.)

  36. dwarf74 says:

    I moved into a new 1800 sq. ft house right around when the rate freeze expired… Fortunately, the new place is very energy efficient. We also replaced all of our incandescent bulbs with CFLs.

    In short, my AmerenIP bills have been pretty reasonable – the highest was about $100 during the warmest months of the summer. Usually it was around $55 when we didn’t use the air.

  37. guspaz says:

    This is the problem with privatized power companies. In Quebec, the power company (Hydro Quebec) is a crown corporation (owned by the government), so this sort of thing can’t happen.

    Oh, sure, the rates occasionally go up, and people scream bloody murder about it every single time, but politicians know that electricity prices affect almost every voter, and that if they raise them too much, they’ll be sure to hear about it at the polls.

  38. swalve says:

    @guspaz: The problem isn’t with private companies, it’s with half-assed “competition”.