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Electrical Aggregation on the Heights Ballot: What Does That Mean for You?

In November, Chicago Heights residents will be asked to decide if the City should look for cheaper electricity suppliers. Here are a few questions (and answers) about what they might mean.

In 2009, Illinois government passed a law that would allow municipalities to put electricity supplying out for bids to find a competitive rate, so long as the residents were in favor of doing so through a referendum vote.

In April, the following question appeared on the 2012 primary election ballot for Heights residents.

Shall the City of Chicago Heights have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such a program?

Heights residents said "no" to the change, albeit by a fairly narrow margin.

At the Monday meeting, the Chicago Heights City Council voted unanimously to put the question on another ballot. This time it will appear on the November election ballot, which will likely have a much larger voter turnout. 

Corporation Counsel T.J. Somer called electrical aggregation "a good thing," repeating himself several times. "We should not have to do this again," Somer added. 

Understanding Electrical Aggregation

So why all the fuss about electrical aggregation? Here's a rundown to help answer some of your questions about this concept growing popular in the South Suburbs.

Do electricity suppliers actually manage electricity going to my home and businesses in the area?
No. Suppliers provide the energy source and manage that end. A distributor is who is in charge of the actual electricity getting to a home or business. ComEd will remain the distributor.

So ComEd would still be maintaining the lines?
Yes. They still will deliver the power. Their responsibility is to deliver the electricity. ComEd does not earn money on power generation.

What if the chosen supplier declares bankruptcy?
Power supply would not be interrupted. The power supply would default to something called a Provider of Last Resort (POLR). Electrons are still being pushed through a countrywide grid, she said—only the generator of the power would change. The city's contract with the then-bankrupt provider would be null, and rates would default to those set by the POLR.

What if (assuming the referendum passes), someone stays on the aggregation plan, but changes their mind and wants to leave six months later?
A provision would be written into that contract that residents can leave or come back any time, with no termination fee, according to the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative. The idea is to never ding the residents with fees. Should ComEd's rates suddenly drop lower than the contracted provider, the accounts would be relinquished back to ComEd, or go back to the POLR.

Does the village need a minimum number of accounts to aggregate?
No. The referendum needs to pass with a majority of the votes—if 100 people vote on it, 51 votes in favor will mean it's a go. Residents will have two opportunities to opt out of the aggregation before it actually goes into effect.

Do I have to do this?
No. Even if the referendum passes, residents will have the option to stick with ComEd or find their own supplier. And if residents decide later that they’d rather be a part of the aggregated supplying, they can enroll later.

How many years would this be set for Chicago Heights?
Typically, the villages NIMEC has worked with thus far have gone with two years. It allows room for adjustment, should the market change.

What communities are already doing this?
Flossmoor, Mokena, Oak Forest, Glenwood, Oak Park, Oakbrook, Grayslake, North Aurora and Elwood, to name a few.

How does your agency get paid?
NIMEC is paid a percentage from the contracted amount from the winning supplier established by the deal with the city.

What do you mean by ‘aggregated?’
By going out to bid for the energy supply of as many residences and small businesses as possible, the city has a chance to purchase a cheaper rate. ComEd charges a rate set by the Illinois Power Agency. Here are a few examples of rates offered by other energy suppliers.

jason amos July 23, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Fernando it is good to have someone who cares about the City,and their ward like yourself keep up the good work at the Park District,you have a uphill climb with certain people in politics that still have a say in the parks DG (hint hint). Maybe you may be able to answer where all the money for the Teen Outreach goes each month?
Tom July 23, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Get our electricity from an outside source and see how fast Com Ed fixes downed powerlines.They fix Com Ed customers first then as a non-priority repair "foreign" power company lines get repaired. I was told this by a power company employee. I hope everyone that goes for an alternative vendor has a generator and a good supply of $4.00 per gallon gasoline.
Arthur W. Wiggins Jr. November 06, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Tom, Do you remember when the FEDs did this to Ma Bell? Do you remember when all the little phone companies popped up, and all the little long distant companies popped up? What happened to those companies? Who is in charge of phone service and long distance service now? Do you remember the fall out from all of this anti-trust/monopoly de-construction? Well Tom I think you are right, I have heard the same thing from utility workers as well. I also think the referendum will pass because of the positive (advertisement) yard signs around the Heights. But history has proven itself on this issue.
Arthur W. Wiggins Jr. November 06, 2012 at 10:45 PM
And yes this has Enron written all over it!
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