PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — This month, many Illinois energy customers are seeing a major hike in their bills.
WMBD has done a full investigation into the higher prices consumers are paying to power their homes. This is part one of a two-part story.
As prices go up, consumers hear warnings that Illinois may not be able to generate enough electricity to power the state through the summer. Anyone close to the situation will say it’s a perfect story of factors, including the war in Ukraine, a transition to clean energy, and supply and demand, that are driving the issues.
Now, consumers will feel the pinch of higher bills at the same time that they’re questioning if there’s enough power to go around.
Tucker Kennedy, the communications director at Ameren Illinois, said a steep incline in price is expected.
“What we’re projecting at this time is about a 47% increase on just the supply portion of the bill alone, (compared to) this time last year,” he said.
Beginning in June, Ameren customers will see about a $52 increase on their monthly electric bill, which totals more than $600 per year.
“The sticker shock is going to hit on the next bills that come through,” confirmed Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich.
Kennedy said the economics behind the power crisis is a problem for Ameren, too.
“We’re frustrated by this as well,” said Kennedy. “We take the power that’s purchased for us, we deliver it to our customers, and we pass those costs through one to one directly, with no profit.”
At the same time, as costs rise, the concern about the state generating enough energy to keep the power on throughout the summer’s hottest days increases, too.
“Say we have a really hot day or several hot days when everybody’s flipping on their air conditions. Demand and usage (will be) up, and that can put a strain on the grid,” Kennedy said.
However, some are concerned the state does not have the ability to make it through without a problem arising.
“Our situation is much like a family living paycheck to paycheck,” said Donovan Griffith, the Director of Government Affairs with the Illinois Manufacturers Association. “We have just enough power to cover us this summer.”
MISO, the regional grid operator that covers most of Illinois outside the Chicago area, claims Illinois could face potential “brownouts” or controlled outages to prevent overwhelming the grid.
“MISO will probably go into more of its energy operating procedures this year versus what it went into last year,” confirmed Vice President of Government Affairs for MISO, Melissa Seymour.
However, Gov. JB Pritzker said the brownouts are unlikely. On the other hand, others say MISO sounding the alarm on the issue is concern enough.
“That risk is low, but it can happen. If the federal grid operator says that there is the potential for it, it certainly gets our attention,” Kennedy said, speaking on behalf of Ameren.
If the grid’s reliability is truly put at risk, there could be times when Illinoisans will be forced to roll back energy use, despite the bills continuing to increase.
“(We could have to) say to our customers, ‘Hey, we’re seeing some strain, and we’re getting the signal from the fed. Please shut down the appliances, turn your thermostat up, use less.’ That’s a possibility,” Kennedy said.
Sunday, part two of this special report will air. This will show why the rush to green energy is playing a major role in rising prices, and more on whether the state will have enough energy to power through the months ahead.