Illinois regulators recently approved energy-efficiency plans proposed by the state’s biggest electric utilities to help customers reduce energy use and lower their bills. The utilities were ordered to develop efficiency programs by 2007 legislation that required $1 billion in rebates and refunds to cover skyrocketing electric bills.

The law requires Ameren Corp.’s Illinois utilities and Commonwealth Edison, which serves much of northern Illinois, to cut electricity demand by 0.2% a year through 2015 through efficiency and demand-response programs, developed to help customers reduce energy use during peak times. The efficiency programs will include discounts on energy-efficient light bulbs and newer energy-efficient appliances. The utilities are allowed to recover some costs through a surcharge on bills.