Cheaper electric rates are on the April 9 ballot in Wesley Township. The Township Board is asking voters' permission to create an electric aggregation program that could save residents as much as 20 percent on the electric portion of their electric bills.
State law permits municipalities to bundle - or aggregate - residential and small commercial retail electric accounts and seek bids for a cheaper supply of power, according to the Will County Governmental League's (WCGL) website. Under such aggregation programs, the buying power of all the customers is combined so that a potentially better price can be obtained from a supplier.
Opt-out aggregation requires voter approval by referendum, and allows the local government to choose a supplier and enroll citizens automatically. The WCGL formed the Will Utility Aggregation Group (WUAG) to maximize aggregation savings, and 18 communities passed referendums last spring allowing their participation. Citizens who did not wish to participate had to take action to be removed from the program.
Those in the opt-out electric aggregation program pay 4.83 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to ComEd's currently approved 8.32 cents per kilowatt hour through May 2013, per a two-year contract with Ohio-based FirstEnergy Solutions.
Opt-in programs do 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 recognized the benefits and joined an 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.
The Wesley Township Board notified the Will County Clerk last month that it would put the referendum on the next ballot. During a a special meeting earlier this month, the board signed an agreement with Integrys Energy Services that commits the township to moving forward with the creation of the aggregation program.
Integrys is responsible for a public information campaign leading up to the election. Residents will receive post cards inviting them to open house gatherings scheduled for March 19 and March 26. Newspaper ads and additional mailings after the open houses will explain how the program will work.
If the referendum is successful, the first step the township takes will be to enact a plan of governance. The plan spells out the duties of the township, the responsibilities of Integrys and how the program will be managed, Jay explained. Residents will receive another postcard letting them know when a public hearing concerning the plan of governance will be held, and have an opportunity to ask questions at that meeting.
Residents will also be able to get information from their own electric aggregation web page, including frequently asked questions pertaining to the process and the program, courtesy of Integrys. In addition, residents will have an electric aggregation information hotline to tap for more information.
The price of the electricity going into township homes will be determined in contract negotiations after the election. Jay believes the savings will be about 15 percent to 20 percent off the approved ComEd price.
If the process stays on track, Jay expects the opt-out period to take place in mid May. At the earliest, the less expensive electricity could be available for the beginning of the July billing cycles, just in time for the peak of the air conditioning season.
Integrys Energy Systems is in the process of creating an electric aggregation program that was approved by voters in Manhattan Township in November.