SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Electric deregulation has saved Illinois customers as much as $37 billion over the past 16 years, a report released Monday said.
Commissioned by four business groups, the report says the average household has paid $3,600 less overall — or about $240 annually — than if the average annual electricity rates had stayed the same as they were before the 1998 deregulation.
That law allows Illinois utilities to compete for business on the open market rather than being regulated monopolies whose rates are set. Utilities had supplied, as well as delivered, electricity to consumers. The Legislature also restructured the natural gas market.
"Illinois' decision to competitively restructure its natural gas and electricity markets has been emphatically vindicated by the results," the report said. "Supplier competition, access to broad regional energy markets and customer choice are the products of well-considered and conscientiously implemented policies to open the monopoly utility industry to market forces."
The report was issued by the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Business Roundtable. It said traditional regulation of monopoly service worked well when gas and electricity were high-growth industries, but that regulation did not move quickly enough to respond to new technologies and changing conditions when good conditions deteriorated.
When deregulation began in mid-1998, Illinois had the 13th highest average electricity prices in the U.S.; in 2013, they were among the 10 lowest, the report said.