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updated: 8/11/2011 11:45 AM

Wauconda trustees to consider electricity idea

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By John Kelly
Daily Herald Correspondent

Wauconda homeowners and businesses could shave roughly 20 percent off the price they pay for electricity by pooling their energy-buying power, under a plan pitched to the village board.

A handful of Illinois towns have taken advantage of a 2009 state law that lets municipalities seek competitive bids from energy companies to power local homes, said David A. Hoover, executive director of the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative.

Hoover told Wauconda trustees on Tuesday that his group has led 10 communities through the process and homeowners there are saving on average $175 a year.

"Aggregation works," Hoover said. "It's working; it's alive; it's real."

Wauconda residents would first need to give their approval through a referendum -- next March at the earliest. If they did, village officials could hunt for better energy rates from competitors of Exelon, the parent company of ComEd, which would still handle billing and service repairs as the state's sole power distributor. Residents and small businesses could opt out of any new power contract.

No decisions have been made, but the idea received a warm reception from the village board.

"Anything in tough economic times that can help residents out is welcome," Trustee John F. Barbini said.

Mayor Mark F. Knigge said the village will likely hold public meetings to explain the process to residents and ask for feedback. Knigge said he hopes residents recognize there is potential for significant savings.

Hoover said energy deregulation has prompted three-quarters of large commercial buyers in the state to switch electricity suppliers, but so far only 2 percent of residential buyers have followed suit. Fox River Grove and Grayslake are among 19 Illinois towns that have passed referendums to shop for electricity on the open market.

Fox River Grove Village Administrator Art Osten Jr. said the village recently agreed to buy its power from Direct Energy after residents approved a referendum in April.

In September, he said, participants will see a 23 percent drop in the electricity supply portion of their bills -- distribution charges and taxes are unaffected -- and will gain the option of purchasing electricity generated by wind turbines.

"It's a good deal," he said. "You can save money and help the environment."