In an attempt to curb electric rates, will join dozens of Chicago-area communities in holding a March referendum that would allow officials to aggregate electric accounts of residential and small businesses and seek cheaper sources of power.
Village trustees voted unanimously Monday night to place a referendum on the March 20 primary election ballot that would authorize electric aggregation, an option under state law that allows municipalities to bundle residential and commercial accounts and negotiate with third-party suppliers for the lowest price.
Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves said communities that have implemented electric aggregation have seen anywhere from 20-to 25-percent savings for their residents.
"It's something that's important (to realize savings) for our customers and the citizens of Lemont," Reaves said.
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, Lemont's current electricity supplier.
Several local communities, including and , have already agreed to referendum on their ballots. Crain's Chicago Business reports that as many as 130 Illinois municipalities — including Aurora, Elgin and Evanston — could follow the 19 suburbs that have already left ComEd.
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 village board during a committee of the whole meeting Nov. 21.
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.
The referendum will appear on on the March 20 ballot 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?”
Should the the referendum pass, the board will need to hold a minimum of two public hearings before the ordinance can officially be adopted, according to Lemont Village Administrator Ben Wehmeier.
The village would work with energy consultants to go out to bid in June. Third-party rates will be compared to ComEd; if the rates do not produce a savings to residents, the village can reject the bids and stay with ComEd.
If the village accepts a bid from a provider other than ComEd, the changeover will occur in August, Wehmeier said.
For more information on municipal aggregation, visit ComEd's FAQ on the issue.