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Chicago electricity study says poor subsidizing rich

Most suburban Chicago McMansion owners and low-income apartment dwellers in the city's urban core pay the same rate for electricity if they take service from Illinois' largest utility, Commonwealth Edison.

But a recent study by an Illinois consumer advocate suggests that perhaps they shouldn't.

The study, which hasn't yet been peer-reviewed, is thought to be the largest analysis so far nationally of anonymous electric use data. And the findings, if confirmed by subsequent studies, could help guide state policies and influence how electric rates are designed in Illinois.

The Citizens Utility Board, a utility watchdog in Chicago, conducted the analysis using smart meter data and found that electric customers in low-income neighborhoods were much more likely to use less energy — and less during peak hours — than more affluent customers.

In other words, poorer electricity customers are likely subsidizing wealthier ones.

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