How will you spend your $5?
Not everyone reading this is a ComEd customer, but those of us who are should be pretty darn excited to learn the Illinois Commerce Commission Wednesday approved the utility’s proposal to issue refunds because of the company’s “unacceptable conduct” during the bribery investigation that resulted in a $200 million fine paid to the federal government in 2020.
According to the feds, ComEd bigwigs used jobs and other benefits to influence lawmakers to pass the 2011 reforms creating a “formula rate” system the Citizens Utility Board says “left electric customers vulnerable to hundreds of millions of dollars in rate hikes over the last decade.”
CUB broke down the math as follows: A 3-0 ICC vote ordered ComEd to issue $31,296.338. Once the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves, another $5,019,312 will be added, plus interest. Customers will get the refund in the form of a bill credit, delivered in April, with the average payout coming to $4.80.
Everyone’s bill varies, but looking at the last 12 months of statements for our suburban home, the refund doesn’t cover a full day. It also is a little more than 10% of the cost of one share in ComEd’s parent company, Exelon, which was trading at $46.30 Thursday and has bounced between $40 and $50 over the past six months. Headquartered in Chicago, Exelon ranks 99 on the Fortune 500 with a net worth exceeding $45 billion. The Illinois Public Interest Research Group said ComEd’s earnings are up $6 billion resulting from bribery.
“A $36 million refund falls short of the refund recommended by CUB, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the city of Chicago,” the Citizens Utility Board said Wednesday. “Further, this case was limited to direct costs and only partially compensates customers for ComEd’s misconduct – people deserve better in the wake of Illinois’ most significant utility scandal ever.”
CUB direct slight optimism toward last September’s passage of the Climate & Equitable Jobs Act, intended to replace the formula rate approach. But while that legislation called for the investigation that ultimately yielded the refund, advocates had aimed for $45 million through a broader probe that factored how much users paid through higher electric rates made possible through the shady dealings.
I might spend my refund, along with a few dimes, to buy a $5 “The Price Is Right” scratch ticket – new from the Illinois Lottery – in hopes of collecting one of four $400,000 grand prizes. The odds of winning any prize through that game are one in 4.08, but I like my chances.
Maybe I’ll just set the central air conditioning one degree lower for an hour. After all, this refund is little more than cold comfort.