An increasingly energetic debate is emerging over who should pay for smart grid technology in Illinois.

If approved, the Energy Infrastructure Modernization bill will authorize a multi-billion dollar investment in the modernization of the state’s electric grid. But disagreement over who should foot the bill and whether customers will actually see financial benefits could lead to a veto by Governor Pat Quinn. The bill was proposed into the Senate at the end of May and has not come up for a vote yet.

ComEd spokesperson Alicia Zatkowski told Breaking Energy that the utility supports the bill, even though it might pass costs upfront to customers. ComEd is an Exelon subsidiary that operates in Illinois utility and serves the larger Chicago region. Zatkowski said customers will see benefits in the long run, including improved efficiency and increased opportunities for interaction with energy usage that could ultimately save them $2.8 billion.

But the nonprofit Citizen Utility Board says the bill will benefit utilities more than customers because of the wide profit margin it affords power companies. CUB Executive Director Dave Kolata told Breaking Energy that although CUB supports smart grid the bill is deceptive in that it will increase customer electrical bills by more than it benefits them.

“We’re still opposed to it because it serves as a Trojan Horse of sorts,” Kolata said. “Half of the bill is in good shape, the other half needs to be addressed.”

Despite disagreement over costs, both parties agreed that privacy issues had been adequately addresses and that the technology itself could only improve electrical reliability.

“One of the things we insisted be in the bill is strong privacy protection,” said Kolata. “The bill as it stands, we believe has good protection on that.”

The debate over smart grid technologies is one that travels past the borders of Illinois. The California Public Utilities Commission recently issued a bill to standardize privacy measures and usage data for all electrical utilities throughout the state. For the full story, see: Customers Claim Top Priority In California Smart Grid.

Photo Caption: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn holds up a bill he signed into law on May 22, 2010. The new law requires state government to conduct an energy audit of buildings that will be used for future energy efficiency standards. Picture originally appeared on Flickr.