Thursday, January 18, 2007

My AmerenCILCO Bill Is Sleazy

For those of you NOT in Illinois, you may not be aware that because of a failed deregulation scheme of 1997, Illinois electric customers are facing monstrous rate hikes, which you can read about from the Citizen's Utility Board. This has been, you can imagine, tremendously politically unpopular statewide, and the legislature continues to ponder rate freezes, though no action has occurred.

In Peoria, we are served by AmerenCILCO, which proposed the greatest rate hikes of all Illinois electric companies for its customers, a 55% rate increase for residential users.

Today I got my first bill, which runs from December 9, 2006 to January 11, 2007, and therefore splits my bill at January 1. I have two separate sets of rates on the bill with the "before" and "after" the rate hike, which went into effect on 1/1.

Here's what my pre-07 bill says:

Energy Charge -- 392.00 kWh @ .06618000 = $25.94
various fees
Total Delivery Service Amount -- $28.70

(It also lists a customer charge and various taxes, which are included in that total delivery service amount; those are proportionally the same on both halves of the bill so I won't address them.)

Here's what my new bill says:

Distribution Delivery -- 171 kWh @ .02596000 = $4.44
Meter Charge (this is new!) -- $1.10
various fees
Total Delivery Service Amount -- $7.43

Woah! I compared the Total Delivery Service Amounts, and my bill had DROPPED! Dramatically! My rate for delivery had gone down from $0.066 to $0.026! I spent AGES trying to figure out what, exactly, this was all about.

Then I realized that there was another page of the bill, with a bunch of charges I've never seen before. (My bill page breaks after listing the new "total delivery service amount." I don't know if that's deliberate or just where my personal bill broke this month.)

On the next page, we find an entirely new category of charges, called:

Electric Supply
Non-Summer (0-800 kWh) -- 171.00 kWh @ .07585000 = $12.97
Market Value Adj. -- 171.00 kWh @ .00000000 = $0.00
Supply Cost Adj. -- 171.00 kWh @ .00091000 = $0.16
Transmission Service Charge -- 171 kWh @ .00180000 = $0.31
Total Supply Amount = $13.44

So while pre-07, my total per kWh was an easy-to-understand $.06618000, my NEW bill splits my delivery service (the name of my TOTAL bill pre-07) at $.02596000 and a new category called "supply" with four different rates you have to add up yourself, to get $.07856000 per kWh for "supply" (a higher rate by itself than my total prior per WkH rate), which gives a total rate of $.10452000. Or to make it not a sentence with a ton of numbers:

Old - $.06618000
New Delivery - $.02596000
New Supply Rates totaled - $.07856000
Total New Rate - $.10452000

That's a jump from about 6 1/2 cents to 10 1/2 cents per kWh. My total bill of 563 kWh (ugh, that seems high) would have been $37.26 under the old rate; it would be $58.84 under the new bill. (Plus taxes and fees.)

Except AmerenCILCO goes out of their way to make it very difficult to figure out your new total kWh cost; it's gone from a very simple and self-explanatory bill to a huge list of services with all different rates and strange names and no explanations. (Actually, they define terms very broadly on the back of the bill. All my new fees and rates are listed as being RECOVERY costs.)

$37 to $59 is a pretty big jump. I'm not good at "percentage change" but that's right around 55% or 60%, closer to 60%, probably thanks to the new "meter charge" which isn't technically a rate hike. Now, keep in mind that we're gas-heated, so we usually spend around $100/month in the winter on gas heat, and those costs have been fluctuating and generally rising. For someone whose house is electric heated, this rate increase is going to be BRUTAL.

But what really annoys me about the bill is the sleazy attempt at making the rate hike more palatable by hiding it in a plethora of new rates and fees. AmerenCILCO says the 55% rate hike is necessary to continue its operations, and that this is obvious if you look at the numbers. If that's true, why is AmerenCILCO engaging in such obfuscation of rates? If the 55% rate hike was necessary and fair, why does AmerenCILCO feel the need to hide it from consumers?


C. J. Summers said...

Thanks for the explanation. I gave up trying to figure out my bill; it wasn't worth my time. Now I know how to read it! Sleazy... that's one word for it. Robbery would be another.

Tony said...

Robbery? How so? Her bill went up $20. We haven't had any increase for the last 10 years.

I mean, I want to keep as much of my money as possible, but this is hardly the end of the world that people claimed it would be.

C. J. Summers said...

Tony, if it were only $20 for everyone, that would be one thing. But it's not $20. It's $20 for iBrows, but it's not $20 for me, and it sure isn't $20 for area businesses who will be raising the prices of their goods (you know, like groceries) to cover the higher rates.

And considering Ameren's profits nearly doubled between 1997 and 2005, it doesn't sound like the rate freeze hurt them very much. I'm not buying their sob story.

The bottom line is, we have no choice of providers, which means Ameren is a monopoly in this area, and they can essentially charge whatever they want.

Mahkno said...

Tony.. that $20 increase is for a partial month of more expensive service. The February bill will be more dramatic.

Yes Eyebrows, I noticed that too. I like the little 'understanding your bill' insert that came with it. It was useless. Very shady shell gaming.

Completely Oblivious said...

yeah, I have decided that if the bill gets to high, that I am going to go to the Ameren building and hang out with the heat in their foyer entrance. I will bring lunch if anyone wants to join me. I'm sure they would understand my situation.

Mahkno said...

Anonymous said...

Everyone complains about Ameren, but the fault lies with those that sell the power (produce it). If those companies that produced powr were able to produce and sell it to Ameren at a profit for the last 10 years, why does 2007 need a sudden 55% increase in the amount that they charge Ameren? ASk your legislator this instead. The "power auction" was crap.

Anonymous said...

Ameren owns generating power plants in a separate unregulated subsidiary. Check their web site.

brian said...

Well it could be worse. 10.2 cents a bargain compared to the 11.4 cents of the bay area.

Cara said...

Also, this is really going to hurt small businesses - more even than individuals.
We at home can conserve our energy and make ourselves or our relatives wear sweaters, slippers and the like.
But think of daycares. They barely eeek out a balanced budget, trying hard not to charge working families too much money. But during the winter, they have to keep the temperature inside pretty freakin' high, so parents don't complain and kids don't keep getting sick. I hope they all have gas heat.
Or restaurants? Or busy stores where the doors keep opening and closing? I'd hate to be a small business owner this cold week.

Tim Herold said...

So how did they determine how much electric you used before midnight on Jan 1 and how much has been used since the hike in rates? I did not see any Meter Reader Posse out at midnight (nor since) reading meters.

knight in dragonland said...

Tony ... yeah, E.M.'s bill went up by $20. Just think about heating & cooling costs on a large building like a school. When you're paying thousands of dollars already, and your costs go up 50-60% ... Public schools and small businesses are going to get hit hard by this. I don't know that a rate freeze is the answer, but this certainly is something that's going to have broad economic implications throughout Illinois.

On the bright side, higher energy prices do strongly encourage conservation. The hybrid vehicle and fuel efficiency buzz has already died down, and gas prices have only been down for a few months. Ahhh, the wonderfully short attention span of the American public.

Josh said...

I like how Ameren makes a profit but NEEDS this increase.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the apathy, this means they will get away with it. Oh-in case you didn't do the math, if your bill was $100 the increase is 102% - double. The residential rate increase for over 800 kw-hrs is up by 239%. Try that for beer or burgers, or parking fees or rent. Give me your address so I can steal from you too. Poor Ameren, HA - check their financials.

Anonymous said...

AmerenCilco is a monopoly. I wrote the Attorney Gereral of Illinois about them and AmerenCilco rote a letter in response saying how the rate increase will help us. Well, let us see what is in the paper. AmerenCilco profits are up 76 percent and people are applying for government aid to heat their homes. I think this speaks more than the AmerenCilco canned reply and the rebate check they gave people were a joke. Write the Attorney General of Illinois and the Better Business Bureau about Amerencilco illegally creating a monopoly. If nothing else you will fell better.