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CUB head urges consumers to closely examine their utility bills

FILE - Vermont Electric Power Company transmission lines are seen on Feb. 8, 2012, in Waterbury, Vt. A New Hampshire electric utility is offering a new proposal for an electrical transmission line from Canada that would carry renewable power to New England. The proposed 211-mile, $2 billion Twin State Clean Energy Link would enter the United States in Canaan, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)
Toby Talbot/AP
FILE - Vermont Electric Power Company transmission lines are seen on Feb. 8, 2012, in Waterbury, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

As executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, the utility watchdog group in Illinois, Sarah Moskowitz urges consumers not to ignore their monthly utility bills.

Illinois allows customers to select an alternative energy provider other than the one partnering with their utility, she said.

“That sounds like it could be great, allowing for free market competition. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’ve seen in Illinois in recent years,” she said, referring to “overpriced alternatives” that continue to operate.

“There’s been rampant contract fraud on both the gas side and the electric side,” said Moskowitz.

Illinois consumers are urged to check and compare rates on their own or through CUB, she said.

“Today, consumers face an overwhelming number of options on their utility bill. Now, there are energy programs to consider, solar offers, and rebates. It’s a real mixed bag,” said Moskowitz, noting that wasn’t the case when she joined CUB almost 20 years ago.

CUB celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2024. “At CUB we’re working with consumers one on one to help them decide their bill and find what works best for them,” she said.

Moskowitz said that last month’s decision by the Illinois Commerce Commission to reject rate-increase requests by both Ameren Illinois and Chicago-based utility ComEd was notable, but “utilities always come back with rate-increase requests.”

“The ICC rejected Ameren’s four-year grid plan because the utility failed to prove it was cost effective. They basically sent Ameren back to the drawing board,” she said.

Along with monitoring utilities in the state, CUB also suggests consumers take advantage of no or low-cost energy efficiency programs offered by their utility. The federal Department of Energy says 10% to 20% of annual energy bills could be wasted due to drafts, air leaks, and outdated heating and cooling systems, the agency noted.

For more information, consult CUB’s website at CitizensUtilityBoard.org.

Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.