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Groups call on Ameren Illinois to protect consumers as energy costs increase

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Joe Deacon
Tracy Fox, center, of the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance and Illinois People's Action speaks to a crowd of about a dozen demonstrators Thursday outside the Ameren Illinois offices in downtown Peoria.

Several community organizations and clean energy advocates want to see Ameren Illinois take more steps toward offsetting rising energy costs.

During a protest outside Ameren's downtown Peoria offices Thursday morning, speakers urged the company to explore renewable alternatives instead of forcing consumers absorb higher supply costs.

“Just passing the buck and saying, ‘It's a supply charge and we just pass it through to customers,’ doesn't absolve them of responsibility for it,” said Tracy Fox of the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance (CIHCA) and Illinois People's Action.

“They are best positioned to help reduce demand. They are best positioned to help find alternative sources of supply that wouldn't be subject to price volatility. And they would be best positioned to deal with rate relief for low income or middle income consumers who are going to be hit hard by those bills.”

About a dozen demonstrators gathered on the sidewalk along Liberty Street, holding signs with slogans such as “Clean Energy Now!” and “Save Our Power Grid And Our Planet.” One shouted that Ameren cares about “profit over people.”

On Thursday afternoon, the City of Peoria announced that residential and business customers who had been under contract with Homefield Energy will be switched to Ameren through the end of next May. The city said local governments participating in energy aggregation were unable to secure a contract for this fiscal year by Friday’s deadline.

“Ameren’s supply rate is approximately $0.12 per kilowatt hour. Homefield Energy customers had previously been paying approximately $0.05 per kilowatt hour,” Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said in the announcement. “Community members should expect pricing increases not just during the summer months, but for the next year.”

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Joe Deacon
About a dozen community organization members demonstrated outside the Ameren Illinois offices in downtown Peoria on Thursday, calling on the company to protect consumers from rising energy costs.

In April, a power capacity auction triggered rate hikes that went into effect this week. Ameren has said typical residential customers in the Peoria area could see their monthly costs increase by about $40, while the spike in Bloomington-Normal is projected at $50.

Alisha Granderson of the Heart of Illinois Group of Sierra Club Illinois said those rate increases come at a time when many families are already feeling a tighter financial crunch.

“Especially post-pandemic and (with) all the inflation increases, it's really hard in our pockets,” said Granderson. “We work hard for our money and we would like to be able to save a little bit of that for a rainy day, and we're not able to if you're constantly having to pour out more and more and more for things like electric bills.”

Joyce Harant, one of CIHCA’s founding members, said Ameren needs to “step up to the plate” in developing cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy solutions.

“I'm here today to ask Ameren to spend some of the record profits since the pandemic on programs to help people who are going to struggle to pay their utility bills,” said Harant. “I'm here today to ask Ameren to become a true partner with the communities to seek solutions. I know that there is not just one solution to the problems that we face with energy.

“The more solar that we have in our area, the more protected we are from the surges when we have a really hot day. And we all have responsibility to use electricity more efficiently, and Ameren has a huge role in educating consumers on how to do that.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.