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SolarCity Poll: Most Illinois Residents Oppose Utility Demand Charges

June 28, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

Results of a poll released by SolarCity on June 27 indicate that 81 percent of Illinois residents oppose allowing electric utilities to add demand charges to household electric bills.

The survey, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research on behalf of the San Mateo-based solar firm, found that fully 78 percent of Prairie State respondents support net metering policies that allow owner-generators to be compensated for the excess power that they supply to the grid.

The findings come as Exelon and ComEd are pushing a measure, Senate Bill 1585, in the Illinois General Assembly that would impose demand charges on all residential customers in their service territories.

Such demand charges have been widely criticized as complicated and difficult to predict for the average customer, according to ratepayer advocates. Rather than primarily billing customers based on the total amount of electricity they consume during a month, the utilities are proposing to add a new charge based on the customers highest 30 minutes or one hour of use during the month. Monthly bills can spike if a customer happens to use multiple appliances during the same half-hour or hour.

During the legislative session, a number of ratepayer advocacy groups –  AARP, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, Citizen Action, Heartland Alliance, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law – said the following in a letter to the General Assembly: “For many of our members, energy affordability is a serious and pressing concern. Under this proposal, individual customers could experience dramatic increases in their bills simply as a result of when they chose to use an appliance. If this customer is low income, one expensive and unexpected utility bill can quickly turn into a financial crisis.”

In sharp contrast, the vast majority of respondents support clean energy measures including an existing law that compensates solar customers for excess solar energy they provide to the grid (favored by 78 percent of respondents).

“Illinoisans understand that a shift to clean energy will create jobs, lower costs and reduce pollution,” said Lesley McCain, executive director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association, adding, “When the General Assembly turns to energy legislation, we hope they will adopt these solutions and reject the counterproductive demand charge proposal.”

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