Wilmington and Diamond residents should be on the lookout for a letter from their municipal government and FirstEnergy Solutions Inc. regarding an electric aggregation opt-in program, because they only have a short time to take advantage of an offer that will save them about 34 percent on the electric supply portion of their electric bills.
Under aggregation, the buying power of all the customers in a city or county is combined so that a potentially better price can be obtained from a supplier. There are two types of aggregation programs, opt-out and opt-in. Opt-out aggregation requires voter approval by referendum, and allows the local government to choose a supplier and enroll citizens automatically. The Will County Governmental League formed the Will Utility Aggregation Group (WUAG) to maximize aggregation savings, and more than one dozen communities passed referendums last spring allowing their participation.
The opt-in method does not require voter approval, and citizens have to enroll to obtain the program savings. Five of the six Will County communities that failed to pass an electric aggregation referendum last spring will participate in the opt-in program being offered by WUAG; Wilmington, Diamond, Minooka, Monee and Joliet. They will also obtain electricity from Ohio-based FirstEnergy Solutions, the firm supplying power for the WUAG communities.
Opt-in program participants will pay 5.48 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to ComEd's currently approved 8.32 cents per kilowatt hour through May 2013.
Letters explaining the program specifics were generated and will be sent to city of Wilmington and village of Diamond residents and small businesses were delivered to the post office Friday. The envelope is marked with the city or village logo, and O'Hara said the letter makes it very clear to the residents it's a program being offered through the municipalities.
Interested electric customers will have only 20 days from the date the letter is postmarked to opt in. They can do so by filling out the return mailer, calling in their request or connecting through the FirstEnergy website. Those who sign up online will receive a slightly reduced rate, O'Hara said.
Depending on when meters are read and accounts are billed, it can take up to eight weeks for electric bills to reflect the savings.
Only residential and small business customers of ComEd are eligible to participate. The state designation of "small business" changed last April, and now only those establishments using less than 15,000 kWh per year can sign onto an opt-in or opt-out program.
"That's not big," O'Hara said. "The average Will County house uses 10,000 to 11,000 kWh per year." The Will County Governmental League office, for example, has a staff of three using not much more than lights and computers, and consumes more than 8,000 kWh per year.
Account usage information appears on the monthly ComEd bill.
Braidwood, Coal City and Elwood are among the 16 Will County communities that passed referendums and created opt-out programs that automatically include the utility customer unless that customer takes action to opt out. Those in the opt-out electric aggregation program pay 4.83 cents per kilowatt hour, and have a two-year contract with FirstEnergy.
The sixth Will County community that failed to pass a referendum in the spring, Lockport, put the question back on the ballot in November. Voters approved the program and WUAG is preparing to let its contract for bid. The Lockport contract will end at the same time as the WUAG contract so that Lockport's utility customers can roll into the larger group.