Area ripe for electric rip-offs this summer

6/5/2019, 3:47 p.m.
With ComEd’s electricity price (6.725 cents per kilowatt-hour) nearly 9 percent lower than last summer, area consumers are at heightened ...

*Watch out for high fees. Ask if the rate you are being offered has any fees tied to it—such as a monthly fee that will inflate the per-kilowatt-hour rate. CUB has seen monthly fees as high as $16.

Ask about exit fees. Find out if the offer has an exit fee if you cancel the contract early. Currently, exit fees are capped at $50. You can avoid getting slapped with an exit fee if you cancel a contract within 10 days of the supplier’s charges first appearing on your bill. (Note: The HEAT Act will eliminate exit fees on Jan. 1, 2020.)

Each year, CUB receives thousands of inquiries from utility customers, including many who have questions about alternative supplier offers or complaints about rates that are double or triple the utility price. While there are plenty of bad deals from alternative suppliers, CUB outlined good choices in the market.

*Energy efficiency. Illinois electric and gas utilities offer discounts/rebates on a wide range of efficiency upgrades. For example, ComEd offers a $100 rebate on smart thermostats, and the utility will pick up an old working refrigerator, recycle it in an environmentally responsible way, and pay the customer $50. ComEd estimates that its customers have cut their electric bills by $4 billion since 2008, thanks to the utility’s efficiency programs.

*Peak Time Savings. This no-cost program gives you a bill credit if you’re able to reduce energy usage for a limited number of hours on certain days (typically hot summer afternoons) when electricity demand is highest. An alternative to Peak Time Savings is Central AC Cycling. It gives you a monthly summer credit of $5 to $10 to let ComEd periodically turn your air conditioning compressor off for a certain amount of time on hot days. You may not notice a difference because your fan stays on to circulate already cooled air.

Hourly Pricing. This program charges a wholesale market price that can change hourly, compared with the traditional rate that only changes twice a year. Hourly Pricing encourages customers to put off heavy energy usage (laundry, for example) until prices are lowest—typically late night and early morning. Savings are not guaranteed, but Hourly Pricing has been saving participants an average of 15 percent on the supply side of their bills.

For more information, call CUB’s Consumer Hotline, 1-800-669-5556, or visit its award winning website, www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org