Election 2012: County residents to vote on new electric provider

By on March 9, 2012

by Susan O’Neill
KANE COUNTY—Voters in unincorporated Kane County will vote on a referendum in March that would authorize the county to contract with an electricity provider for residents and small commercial retail customers outside municipalities in Kane County.

According to board member Drew Frasz, there is overwhelming support for the county to negotiate a better rate for electricity for current Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) customers.

“We don’t want to foist it on anyone, but we’re assuming it will pass,” Frasz.

Frasz explained that even if the referendum passes, residents and commercial businesses can opt out of the deal.

Two suppliers, Progressive and Blue Star Energy, approached the county with proposals last year. The Kane County Board initially decided to move forward with Blue Star Energy. However, BlueStar was then acquired by AEP (American Electric Power) and their proposal was subsequently retracted.

“The county has since released another request for proposals, has received five proposals, and those proposals are being reviewed,” Kane County Manager of Resource Conservation Programs Karen Kosky said.

According to Kane County documents, 29 Illinois municipalities, including Elburn and Sugar Grove, voted to adopt a municipality aggregation program during 2011. Both villages were able to negotiate a contract (exclusive of utility charges and taxes) with Direct Energy, for a savings of 23 percent below ComEd’s price.

“The larger the group, the better the discount,” Frasz said.

According to Kosky, there are two potential companies involved in an aggregate program. The first, the municipal aggregation consultant, is the firm that would administer the aggregation program in conjunction with county staff. The second, the electric supply company, would be the one to make a bid on the electricity supply.

If the referendum passes, the county will have the option to move forward to seek bids. If the bids come in higher or the same as ComEd 2012 prices, the county would not enter into a contract. If the county accepts a bid, county staff would hold two public hearings and allow residents the opportunity to opt-out of the program before switching them to the new provider.

Although a new supplier would be providing the electricity, ComEd would still transmit the electricity to county customers, and monthly bills would still originate from ComEd. In addition, customers would still call ComEd for repairs.

“The consumer should realize no difference in electricity supply except the lower rates,” Kosky said.

The electric supply company would pay the consultant. ComEd’s utility fees for transmission of the electricity and taxes would still apply.