A new report says electricity deregulation has saved Illinois customers up to $37 billion over the past 16 years. Today's report by four business groups says the average household has paid $3,600 less overall than if the average annual electricity rates had stayed the same. Deregulation kicked in in 1998, allowing Illinois utilities to compete for business on the open market rather than being regulated monopolies whose rates were set. The utilities before deregulation both supplied and delivered electricity to customers, who had no other choices. The legislature also restructured the natural gas market. The report is being issued by the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Business Roundtable. Electric rates have risen recently as utilities make ``smart grid'' improvements.
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