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Illinois Electricity Consumers Can Expect To Receive A $37.9M ComEd Refund Soon. (Rhetorically, Of Course.)

So, I had to write about this, of course, because it involves ComEd and their as per usual schizophrenic rates. And you all, my friends, know about my feelings for ComEd; I LOVE writing about ComEd. Whenever I have writer’s block, I know that ComEd will unswervingly come to my aid by doing something notoriously, um, batty. Back when I studied writing in college, I learned that the way to keep a story interesting is to create conflict among the characters. And, to make the story longer, simply add more characters. Pepper in some suspense, and you have a potentially great story. Well ComEd definitely has all of those elements going on — and then some. I might go out on a very short limb to say that they may be abusing the conflict element a bit, but we’ll go ahead and humor them for a while. (Though to qualify, there is nothing remotely funny about their stories.)

If you haven’t already heard, the latest characters in the ComEd saga are the ICC and CUB Illinois. According to CUB Illinois, “[the ICC was] wrong to allow ComEd to ignore potential customer savings from ‘accumulated depreciation’ of the utility’s assets—trucks, plants, equipment, etc. Depreciation lowers the value of a utility’s assets, which should be a key factor in how big a rate hike, if any, a utility gets.”

Wow, my brain hurts from processing that. Since I’m not a finance person, let’s just take CUB at their word and accept that a refund is in order. (And thanks for not requiring more of me.) I did email David Kolata of CUB to interpret for me, since I wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Well, apparently, this horse doesn’t respond to email. For shame.

To be exact, the ruling states that the utility “wrongly inflated consumer electricity rates.” And let’s be sure to not confuse that with the “correctly” inflated consumer electricity rates they’ve been proffering in recent years. When does the refund come for those?? So essentially, ComEd passed some charges along to customers that it wasn’t supposed to. Really? And here I thought this was standard practice. Silly me, I didn’t realize there was a distinction.

In any case, the key element of surprise in this story is the news of ComEd issuing a refund to the customers. Oh dear, are you ok? Would you like a glass of water? Can I help you up off the floor?

Wait, did I say surprise? Well, that was a bit of an understatement. Bombshell might be more appropriate. Don’t go getting all excited now though; we need to set reasonable expectations here. So, to be candid… in terms of a refund, you’re not going to get squat. Your supposed refund of $36.7M will be divided by, oh, about 3.8M customers. So, that amounts to about… hold on, doing math… a whopping $9.65, at best. It’s beside the point that the amount is miniscule, but the real problem with this story is that the surprise is not even believable. Chances are, the denouement will unfold such that the refund will never see the light of your wallet — it will be more likely be cancelled out by a rather timely yet “impromptu” rate hike, sold as yet another way to counteract all of the customers leaving ComEd en masse. Interesting how the timing of those two events have coincided, hmm? Not sure about you, but I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with a compelling reason to give ComEd any more of my business than is truly warranted, i.e., the supply of my electricity. Perhaps one of you could help me out? Do any of your ComEd stories have happy outcomes?

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