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updated: 9/9/2011 12:26 PM

McHenry County to debate electricity aggregation

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The McHenry County Board likely will decide whether to ask voters in March if they want the county to seek bids for residential electricity in unincorporated areas from companies other than ComEd, county board members said.

The county's legislative and intergovernmental affairs committee heard a presentation on electricity aggregation from David Hoover, executive director of the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative. Committee members were told that savings could amount to 20 to 25 percent of electric bills, committee vice chairman John Jung Jr. said.

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"I'd like to see the referendum, and see what people think, and see if you can actually save that money," Jung said. "ComEd still bills the people and delivers the electricity; people don't see any changes."

Harvard and Fox River Grove are among 19 municipalities in Illinois that approved such referendum questions in April, Hoover said. No counties have done so yet, he said.

"Aggregation works because when you bring 75,000 people, (electric companies) are much more willing to negotiate their pricing rather than one at a time," Hoover said.

County board member Ersel Schuster said she supports giving voters a choice, but she questions the long-term implications of electricity aggregation.

"I think it's a good idea to bring it to the public. What bothers me is monopoly-type situations," she said. "You sign contracts with big guys, and the little guys get eaten up."

If approved at the polls, the county would hold two public hearings and then move forward with a new electricity supplier only if the new rates are better.

County Administrator Peter Austin will draft a resolution that will be discussed by the county board, likely at a committee of the whole meeting, Jung said.

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