Electricity issue generates mixed results across Valley
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org March 22, 2012 11:12AM
Updated: April 24, 2012 8:12AM
Local governments’ hunt for cheaper electricity didn’t sell well in all Fox Valley towns Tuesday.
The towns had referendums asking voters to allow them to negotiate with electricity suppliers to serve residential and small commercial retail customers.
Among them, Elgin’s voters approved the referendum by fewer than 500 votes — 4,934 to 4,456.
The municipalities that got the thumbs-up from voters will now seek to purchase electricity on behalf of residents and small businesses through a competitive bidding process from an electricity supplier other than ComEd. Residents will have the option to opt out of the program.
It is not known exactly how much the savings would be in each community until officials sit down with third-party power companies and negotiate new deals. But they may see a price break of 15 percent to 25 percent in the energy-supply portion of their utility bills, said Mark Pruitt, program manager at the Illinois Community Choice Aggregation Network, a group working with 35 municipalities to negotiate the best rates and terms.
The Citizens Utility Board consumer watchdog group has estimated that residential customers could see savings of $10 to $12 a month in their electric bills.
Besides Elgin and Aurora, other area towns that approved the referendum Tuesday included Burlington, Campton Hills, East and West Dundee, Gilberts, Hampshire, Huntley, Pingree Grove and south Elgin.
But in other communities, voters refused to power-up the measure.
The referendum before residents in the unincorporated areas of Kane County was defeated by 200 votes out of 8,200 cast. Unincorporated residents in McHenry County also turned it down, as did residents of Algonquin. Bartlett and Carpentersville.
Aurora resident Larry Frieders said he voted against the measure because it would increase the impact of government on private lives.
“Governments are formed to do things collectively that people can’t or shouldn’t do on their own,” Frieders said. “Government is already involved in too many aspects of life, and adding another element won’t improve things.”
But Sugar Grove Trustee Mari Johnson said she has been pleased with the cost savings village residents have seen on their electricity bills since approving the measure a year ago.
“The bills are substantially lower each month,” she said. “I’m glad we did this.”
Javier Barrios of Good Energy L.P., the firm the city of Aurora has hired to help during the electricity aggregation process, said the main reason voters don’t vote “yes” is because they lacked information about how the program works.
“The facts are very favorable for any citizen to participate in it,” he said. “People (may not) understand the choice and what they can save.”
On Wednesday, the Kane County Energy and Environmental Committee pulled items regarding hiring a new energy consultant off its agenda after the defeat of the electricity aggregation referendum.
Committee Chairman Barb Wojnicki said the measure may not completely go away, however.
“We’ll look at it in late summer and try to put it on the ballot for November,” she said.
Around the state, almost 300 communities had similar referendums on Tuesday’s ballot.
Correspondent Matt Brennan
contributed to this report.