Illinois Republicans hope ICC, IPA can help address high energy bills, capacity concerns

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Many downstate lawmakers are concerned about higher power bills and Illinois’ ability to power homes and businesses throughout the year.

An Illinois House Joint Committee had the opportunity to hear from the Illinois Commerce Commission and Illinois Power Agency Tuesday afternoon. The ICC is trying to achieve market reforms to help build up the capacity for customers in the MISO region. The organization understands there is a shortfall right now, but ICC Public Utility Bureau Chief Jim Zolnierek said all hands are on deck.

“Under certain circumstances, there’s a continued or even greater shortfall projected,” Zolnierek said. “But, that doesn’t need to be. Certain market reforms, if plans respond to prices, then we may see that gap being filled. And if it doesn’t, we’re looking at other options as well. So, we’re definitely on top of it.” 

Zolnierek noted that other states in the MISO region are not facing the same situation as Illinois. However, the ICC believes that other states will be willing to help Illinois have enough capacity in case of an emergency.

Republican members of the House Energy & Environment and Public Utilities Committees said they want a guarantee that people in their districts will be able to keep their heat and lights on the rest of the winter. 

Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton) said he is willing to submit written questions to the ICC and IPA because customers deserve to know how long they will have to deal with higher costs.

“We’ve got a lot of questions that we’ve go to get answers to,” Severin said after the hearing. “So, we’re in a very volatile situation that’s very concerning and it’s not going to go away overnight.” 

Severin and other Republicans would also like to know if energy prices will go higher over the next few months. Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) said consumers also need to be notified about any capacity issues.

“Something like an FAQ page that is public-facing on a public-facing website may be the best way to do it,” said IPA Acting Director Brian Granahan. “And then you can refer constituents to that website and they can see market trends. I think a big component that could be helpful as well is how does Illinois compare to other states.” 

Granahan said that information could help constituents understand how trends are changing over time. He noted that Illinois is not the only state dealing with rising energy rates and that it could become a national or global issue. 

While Ameren Illinois and the Pritzker administration have helped with several short-term solutions, House GOP members said Illinois needs long-term solutions for the MISO region. 

“As we work to transition to a cleaner energy economy, we need to make sure that we still have the energy needed to make sure the light switches turn on and that grandma can stay in her home with power in the winter,” Davidsmeyer said. “In the summer, she needs to stay cool in that home and not have to leave because the overwhelming price of energy.” 

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February 21, 2023 at 09:03PM

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