Heat wave leads ComEd to suspend electricity shutoffs

July 22, 2011

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(Flickr/juggernautco)
A ComEd regional base in west suburban Glenbard.

Northern Illinois residents behind on their electricity bills don’t have to worry about Commonwealth Edison disconnecting them. They don’t, that is, until the heat wave lets up.

If a day’s National Weather Service forecast predicts temperatures of at least 95 degrees, Illinois prohibits a big power company from disconnecting homes that depend on the juice to keep cool.

ComEd spokeswoman Arlana Johnson late Thursday said her company, given the heat, had not cut off any of its residential customers since last week. “We have been evaluating that on a daily basis,” she added.

The company’s restraint won praise from Elce Redmond, an organizer of the South Austin Coalition, a neighborhood group on Chicago’s West Side that is pushing for an overhaul of utility shutoff policies. “That’s a good first step,” Redmond said. “But, once the weather breaks, are they going to start massive disconnections?”

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, the coalition demanded a three-month moratorium on shutoffs and, then, more affordable reconnection and repayment terms.

ComEd responded that it cut off power only as a last resort. “No business can continue to operate if customers don’t pay for the service,” Johnson said.

During the year’s first six months, ComEd disconnected 46,493 customers for nonpayment and reconnected 28,252, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission. Those figures were up 4.1 percent and 28.5 percent, respectively, from the same months of 2010.