Consumer, Anti-Poverty Groups Call on General Assembly to Reject ComEd’s Mandatory Demand Charge Proposal

Media Contacts
Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Illinois PIRG

Springfield – Calling the proposal radical and unprecedented, a collection of consumer and anti-poverty groups sent a letter Wednesday to legislators calling on them to reject a proposal from ComEd that would change the way all residential consumers are charged for electricity.

“No state legislature has ever approved a mandatory demand charge on all residential customers.” Said Julie Vahling, Associate State Director of AARP Illinois. “The general assembly should reject this unprecedented proposal.”

Demand charges have been common for years for industrial and commercial, but not residential, consumers.  Instead of charging for the total amount of energy a consumer uses over a billing period, a demand rate measures energy use in smaller increments, 15 or 30 minutes, and charges the consumer based on the amount used in the highest increment during a billing cycle.

“Demand charges are confusing a difficult for consumers to understand,” said Abraham Scarr, Director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). “That makes it challenging for consumers to adapt their behavior to avoid spikes in their energy bills and discourages energy efficiency.”

“Energy affordability is a serious and pressing concern for our members,” added Vahlling. “For low income consumers, one unexpectedly high energy bill can quickly turn into a financial crisis”

Across the county, utilities are increasingly proposing higher mandatory fees and demand rates in an attempt to boost revenue. Demand rates are often sold as a way to more accurately account for the costs imposed on our energy system during the times of greatest overall demand, but individual consumer peaks do not correlate with system peaks.

“We are in the midst of major transitions and innovations in energy, from advances in renewable energy and energy efficiency to new technologies and growing consumer demand for renewable energy,” said Scarr. “Instead of evolving and innovating alongside the modern energy marketplace, however, ComEd is regressing by trying to force their customers to pay mandatory fees regardless of how much electricity they use.”

The letter to legislators was signed by AARP Illinois, Citizen Action Illinois, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Illinois Asset Building Group, Illinois PIRG, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, and Woodstock Institute.