Hinsdale voters embrace electrical aggregation to lower bills
Updated: March 29, 2012 3:39PM
Hinsdale voters were overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum proposal Tuesday for electrical aggregation, which could lower their energy bills.
Unofficial results showed DuPage County residents voting 2,269 to 649 to allow village officials to pool, or aggregate, the electric load of residents and buy electricity on their behalf. In two Cook County precincts, residents voted 286 to 78 for the proposal.
The process of negotiating an electric rate is similar to the way the village arranges for garbage and cable services and agrees on fees for the entire community.
ComEd will continue billing and delivering electricity, but deregulation since 2007 allows other companies to compete in supplying power at cheaper rates. Nineteen communities, including Oak Brook, have approved similar measures for municipal purchasing power.
Even with voters authorizing the village to seek bids, residents still can opt out of the aggregation program. Some consumers already have signed with alternative suppliers and wouldn’t be subject to a rate negotiated by the village.
Hinsdale officials earlier had expressed concern residents could confuse the proposal for electrical aggregation with an issue on the ballot five years ago for Hinsdale to operate its own electric utility, which was defeated.
Trustee Laura LaPlaca said the village has used the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative as a consultant on aggregation at no cost to residents.
While the consultant often groups several towns together for an enhanced bargaining position, LaPlaca said it’s likely Hinsdale will not join other towns in seeking a rate.
“Because of the size of the homes in Hinsdale, the usage is high, so we should get a good price anyway,” LaPlaca said.
The village also will seek a clause to terminate a contract without penalty, if ComEd’s prices drop lower than the rate in the contract, she said.
Representatives of the Citizens Utility Board, a consumer watchdog group, stress that approval of the measure is by no means a guarantee of long-term savings, but there could be some advantages between now and May 2013, when ComEd’s supply rates are likely to change.
The potential savings for consumers are big, at least in the short term. In December, ComEd’s residential electric rate was 7.73 cents per kilowatt hour, while the lowest alternative rates won by communities with existing aggregation programs is 5.43 cents per kilowatt hour, a 30 percent savings.
Jim Chilsen, spokesman for the utility watchdog group, advises communities to closely monitor what ComEd charges for electrical supply. And, before signing a contract with an alternative electrical supplier, find out if there is a charge for ending the agreement, he said.