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updated: 10/29/2011 7:49 PM

Mettawa decides against referendum for alternate energy supplier

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As more suburban communities consider a time-consuming path to cheaper power for residents and small businesses, one town is promoting a quicker option.

Instead of asking voters on the March 20 ballot if they want the village to negotiate for a new power supplier, Mettawa officials are informing residents of a new program to save money immediately.

In a recent email to residents, Mayor Jess Ray forwarded detailed information about the Clean Air Counts Energy Savings Program. It guarantees an 18 percent savings on power supply, which accounts for about two-thirds of a typical ComEd electric bill, through June 2012.

The supplier also guarantees the price will be less than ComEd's rates for each month through June 2013, when the contract expires. Households also can receive four energy efficient light bulbs.

Village officials researched the complicated issue of alternative power providers and determined that promoting the program, which is a new initiative of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, would be preferred to an advisory referendum, Ray said. If voters approve an advisory referendum, communities put out bids and negotiate the highest discount provider, with the power available next summer.

One difference with Mettawa's approach is power users would choose to participate, rather than being automatically included and having to opt out of whatever supply program a single town or group of communities settle on.

"We're not doing a program for the residents," Ray said. "They have to go in and sign up."

The other benefit highlighted by the mayors caucus is customers can realize savings with the next billing cycle.

Integrys Energy Group, an energy holding company and parent of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, is the power supplier.

"We're really just getting started with this," said Eve Pytel, assistant director for Clean Air Counts, an ongoing initiative of the mayors caucus to reduce air pollution and energy consumption. The caucus was created by former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1997 and is comprised of mayors from 272 communities.

The program is available to anyone, as is the case with other offers arriving in the mail from various energy suppliers. Ray and others say it provides greater savings than other opt-in offers.

Libertyville trustees on Nov. 5 will consider going to ballot with plans for an alternative power supplier, as recommended by the village board's special projects committee.

In the interim, the village plans to publicize the Clean Air Counts program to fill the gap for interested residents.

Some communities, including Grayslake, quickly put the advisory question on the ballot last April. With the approval in hand and an alternative power supplier selected, residents and small businesses in Grayslake will begin realizing savings of 30 percent beginning in January, according to Mayor Rhett Taylor.

The work continues for a consortium of seven communities led by Buffalo Grove, and including Vernon Hills and Long Grove, and it is expected to pursue the ballot question.

Advisors to the mayors caucus contend towns considering the referendum questions for alternate power suppliers may not be able to take advantage of the greatest saving potential because ComEd's rates change every June and are expected to drop.

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