The final ruling has not been posted, but the ICC said it is in line with many of the concerns posted in the Attorney General’s filing a few weeks ago.
The filing by Illinois’ AG questions whether there would be as much savings from truck rolls, since there is currently a rule on the books that people have to be contacted in person “at the time the service is being discontinued” when they’re being disconnected for nonpayment.
In Ameren’s proposal, the utility estimated that it received about 247,000 disconnect/reconnect orders per year, about 89,000 of which were disconnects for non-pay, more than a third of the total figure.
Besides the remote disconnect issue, there are also questions about the verification of benefits for customers and the details of where and when the technology will be deployed, since some of Ameren’s territory already has some automatic meter reading.
At stake is a $300 million investment in Ameren’s grid over the next decade, including distribution automation and smart meters.
The rejection harks back to Baltimore Gas & Electric’s rejected proposal nearly two years ago, when the Maryland Public Service Commission told the utility that the plan’s surcharge to customers was not justified and that it lacked sufficient consumer education. Eventually the plan was approved with a far lower surcharge, more robust consumer offerings, and no mandatory time-of-use pricing.
In Illinois, smart grid has had a hard road so far, as the state’s two largest utilities have been repeatedly chastised for not spelling out the benefits to customers well enough.