Powerful choices

By on December 10, 2010

Residents will vote on power provider
by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—Elburn residents will soon be able to vote on whether they want the village to decide who supplies electricity to the village. Currently, ComEd provides electrical service, but with the passage of a law in 2007 by the state legislature, citizens have the right to choose among competing power sources.

In a 6-1 vote with Trustee Jeff Walter voting no, the Elburn Village Board on Monday approved an ordinance that will put the choice of whether the village can arrange for the supply of electricity for its residents on the April 5 ballot.

“The state changed the law to empower municipalities to make municipal-wide decisions to move to another power company, similar to trash handling,” David Hoover of the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Cooperative (NIMEC) said in an address to the board on Monday. “The state wants ComEd out of the power business.”

NIMEC is a buying group that would act as an intermediary to help the village get the best rate on its power. In that scenario, NIMEC would go out for bid with other companies in an attempt to beat ComEd’s rate. But even with another company supplying power, ComEd would continue to provide billing and service the lines.

“ComEd stays the same, but we have an opportunity to have savings on who puts electricity through our wires,” Trustee Ken Anderson said.

Any repairs and all billing would be handled by ComEd regardless of the power supplier.

“You would still be a customer of ComEd,” Hoover said. “Nothing changes at all with your service, just the rate changes. You accept the lower rate for the exact same product.”

Individual residents can opt out and return to ComEd at any time with no extra fees by filling out a form. They are not obligated to the choice the village makes, similar to the model of gas providers to the village.

Walter questioned why the village is inserting itself between the suppliers and the residents. In response, Hoover said that currently no suppliers of power are actively soliciting business. They do not have the model to deal with individual residents.

“We are enticing them with all of Elburn,” Hoover said. “NIMEC aggregates it with all its other municipalities. We leverage our 100 municipalities and set ourselves up to be the big purchaser in the market.”

NIMEC is currently talking with Harvard, Orland Park, Polo, Fulton, Darien, and 10 to 20 other municipalities.

“If we get all the way down to the bid and ComEd is lower, then don’t go with (NIMEC’s rate).We’re not asking the board or anybody to commit to us today. If we can’t beat it, then nothing ventured, nothing gained. If we beat it by a negliable amount of 1 to 2 percent and it’s not worth it, then don’t go with it. But if we can beat it by 5 to 10 to 20 percent, we present it and you decide to move forward or not,” Hoover said.

Trustees noted that if this ordinance passes on April 5, NIMEC may not be the only power brokerage to approach the village.

“The bottom line as I see it is that it’s an opportunity for the citizenry to look at it and see if we can save ourselves money,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “It’s a competitive issue. At the end we’ll have a better educated consumer.”