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Referendum could lower rural Kane electric rates

Updated: November 28, 2011 10:12AM

If Kane County poses the question on the March 2012 election referendum, residents in unincorporated areas could see a decrease in their electricity rates.

A change in state law allows municipalities and counties to change the way they buy energy. If Kane residents vote for the referendum, it would authorize the county to become the purchaser of electricity on behalf of people in rural areas.

“By doing so, the bulk purchasing ability gets you the better rate,” said Karen Kosky, county manager of resource conservation programs.

Kane is looking to hire a consultant to assist it, and staff discussed this potential hire with the county board committee of the whole Tuesday.

The consulting firm would assist the county from the process of the referendum all the way through the process of searching for lower rates. Its services are set up similar to the services of a Realtor.

If voters decide they do not want the county to go ahead with this process, or the county decides it no longer wants to pursue this route, there would be no cost for the consultation services.

The first step is the referendum. The county is preparing to have the question placed on the March ballot. If voters reject it, the process stops. If they approve it, they give the county the authority to shop for bulk electricity for homes and small businesses.

If Kane shops for electricity and does not find a lower rate than ComEd’s, it will stick with the company as the electricity provider. If it finds a lower cost provider, it then will have the option to purchase. ComEd would still do repairs to existing lines, even if it no longer provides electricity.

Grundy, Will, DeKalb, DuPage and McHenry counties and the village of Huntley all are in various stages of seeking alternative power. Sugar Grove, Campton Hills and North Aurora all passed referendums earlier this year and are benefiting from cheaper electricity rates.

Residents would have the option to opt out of the program. Kosky said they would receive a mailing notifying them of the situation, and they would send it back if they want to opt out.

The energy and environmental committee will review bids for consultation services at its November meeting.

Committee member Tom Van Cleave, R-Batavia, asked what the cost of the referendum would be. The staff members were not sure.

Committee member Mike Donahue, R-Geneva, said he was in favor of the referendum.

“I don’t think it hurts us at all to go down this path,” he said.

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