Proposed electric rate hikes may negatively impact Decatur residents
Ameren Illinois is requesting an electric rate hike that could see monthly bills increase up to $25 per month by 2027. If the Illinois Commerce Commission approves this request, it will disproportionately impact residents of one of Illinois’ poorest cities. Decatur has a poverty rate of 20%, a childhood poverty rate of ~30%, and there are 1000’s of households in Decatur that are rent- or mortgage-distressed. With a median household income of $45,111, there is a large proportion of households that cannot afford $200 in emergency expenses, let alone a permanent and large increase in an essential commodity, electricity. Simply put, individuals and families in Decatur should not be forced to decide whether to pay their rent/mortgage, buy groceries, purchase medication, or pay utility bills during any given month.
AMEREN MAY BE IMPEDIMENT TO DECATUR MEETING ITS RENEWABLE ENERGY NEEDS
One of the reasons that Ameren may be proposing the rate increase is to meet the goals of the state’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. The act serves as a catalyst for renewable energy generation in the state. Decatur has substantial potential to generate solar energy, but it is unclear how Ameren and the proposed rate increase will be helping Decatur with its renewable energy production.
The city of Decatur owns the Oakley Sediment Basin, the final resting place of former topsoil that was dredged from Lake Decatur. The sediment basin is approximately 400 acres in size much of which could be used for generating solar energy. Assuming 8 acres of land is needed per megawatt of energy production, the city can generate ~50 megawatts of energy. This is enough clean, renewable energy for 7,000 Decatur households (i.e., 20% of residents). In addition, the city of Decatur has multiple locations such as the South Water Treatment Plant and roof of the Decatur Public Library that would benefit from solar energy generation.
Ameren can help citizens of Decatur gain access to clean energy by investing in renewable energy transmission projects in our city and not increasing rates on residents of a city that are already experiencing extreme distress. This investment will meet residents needs while simultaneously meeting the needs of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. The Illinois Commerce Commission should consider modifying Ameren’s request and further invest in renewable energy infrastructure in Decatur. The city has the land for solar energy production, one barrier to transitioning to clean energy may be Ameren.