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Article updated: 2/20/2013 7:08 AM

ComEd again asking lawmakers for money

By Mike Riopell

SPRINGFIELD -- ComEd officials are asking lawmakers to approve a proposal that would allow them to collect more money from customers to pay for projects the company says would make its systems more reliable and efficient.

The legislation would cost an average ComEd customer about 40 cents more per month on an $82 bill.

Representatives of the utility say they thought the changes they're seeking were already clear in the law after a 2011 push to approve the company's plan to create a "smart grid."

But state regulators last year denied the company about $100 million it was looking for to pay for the upgrades.

As a result, ComEd is doing less to upgrade its systems this year, officials said.

In recent years, ComEd has faced anger from suburban residents who in some cases had multiple days of power outages after big storms -- outages the utility attributed in part to the need for system upgrades.

The legislation for the increase was approved by an Illinois Senate committee last week without anyone voting against it.

"We need to have certainty on these issues to continue moving forward," ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore said.

Critics are skeptical, though. Gov. Pat Quinn fought hard against the 2011 law allowing ComEd to collect $2.6 billion for smart grid projects over the next 10 years.

He vetoed the plan then and spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said he's against ComEd's latest effort, too.

And AARP, which is often active on utility issues, said ComEd should accept the decision of state regulators and not ask lawmakers for more money. After all, the company supported the original law, said Scott Musser, associate state director for AARP.

"What are we getting for that money?" he said.

Utility issues can be volatile in Springfield as lawmakers balance the interests of a company that provides an essential service to people and customers back home wary of the rising costs of energy.

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