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March Referendum Could Help Lemont Save on Electricity

Village is looking to join 20 other communities in aggregating residential and small commercial electric accounts and seeking bids for cheaper sources of power.

In an attempt to curb electric rates, officials are looking to gain the authority to aggregate electric accounts of residential and small businesses — a move that requires the village to pass a referendum.

During a committee of the whole meeting Monday night, village trustees and Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves discussed municipal aggregation, an option under state law that allows municipalities to bundle residential and commercial accounts and seek out cheaper sources of power.

Illinois deregulated electricity in 1997 in order to open the marketplace to competition. Before a January 2011 court ruling, electricity companies new to Illinois had no efficient way to deliver their product to consumers because the infrastructure is owned and maintained by ComEd.

The ruling allows new electricity providers to use the existing infrastructure and bill consumers through ComEd.

In order to move forward with aggregation, the village is looking to place a referendum on the ballot during the March 20 primary election. Should the referendum pass, the village will be able to seek out cheaper rates from companies other than ComEd, which currently supplies Lemont's electricity.

Several local communities, including and , have already agreed to referendum on their ballots.

The Will County Governmental League — which has a membership of 32 municipalities, including Lemont — has formed a coalition called the Will Utility Aggregation Group (WUAG) to bid out to electricity suppliers on behalf of its members.

Hugh O’Hara, transportation director with the Will County Governmental League, presented information to the Lemont Village Board on Monday night.

Should municipalities move forward with aggregation, account holders are not obligated to participate, O'Hara said. The opportunity to opt out will be available up through program implementation.

Those who do participate, however, will continue to receive bills from ComEd, O'Hara said.

ComEd distributes electricity but does not generate it. As the local distributor, according to its website, ComEd will still be responsible for delivery services— reading meters, maintaining equipment, responding to outages, providing reliable service and so forth.

The bill may still come from ComEd, regardless of the supplier. The only change would be the provider on the bill's electricity supply, according to village officials.

O'Hara said the 20 towns that belong to WUAG could realize as much as $31 million in total annual savings.

Lemont Village Administrator Ben Wehmeier said the Village Board could vote to put the referendum on the March 20 ballot as early as Nov. 28, which is the village's next business meeting.

Jan. 3 is the final day to adopt an ordinance for a referendum, Wehmeier said.

Assuming the referendum passes, the board will need to hold a minimum of two public hearings before the ordinance can officially be adopted.

Should the village place the referendum on on the March 20 ballot, it will appear in this form:

“Shall the village of Lemont have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial customers who have not opted out of such program?”

For more information on municipal aggregation, visit ComEd's FAQ on the issue.

Bolingbrook Patch Editor Brian Feldt contributed to this report.

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