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posted: 3/20/2012 12:11 AM

Des Plaines wants residents to choose energy provider themselves

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Des Plaines residents should be able to choose an alternate energy provider over ComEd without the city influencing their decision, officials said Monday refusing to endorse an energy savings program offered by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.

Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Assistant Director Eve Pytel explained the benefits of the program at Monday night's city council meeting seeking the council's support through a resolution.

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Residents are more inclined to adopt a program that has the endorsement of the municipality, she said.

Pytel said the caucus negotiated a deal with Integrys Energy Group so residents of its member municipalities who choose to switch their energy supplier -- currently ComEd -- could save between 20 percent and 30 percent on their electric supply charges immediately, she said.

More than 20 municipalities have endorsed the caucus' program, and residents from 90 other suburban communities already have independently signed on with Integrys, she added.

Roughly 300 Illinois communities are seeking voter approval for electric aggregation through referendums in Tuesday's consolidated primary election, Pytel said.

Voters in scores of suburban towns will decide whether they want shared electricity service from a vendor other than ComEd as part of a package deal through their village or city. If a town switches vendors, residents who don't want the new service would have to opt out.

Several Des Plaines aldermen were skittish about the city endorsing one energy supplier over another.

"I feel that (residents) should be the ones to make their own selection," 1st Ward Alderwoman Patti Haugeberg said.

Officials said there are many ways residents can save on their energy bills by switching to any one of the dozens of suppliers listed on the Citizen's Utility Board website.

Mayor Marty Moylan said residents also need to be cautious and wary of scammers per an advisory from the state's attorney's office.

"I want to hear what other companies are saying about (Integrys)," Moylan said, adding he wouldn't endorse the program even though it came with city staff member's recommendation.

City Manager Jason Slowinski said residents can participate in the Metropolitan Mayor's Caucus' program independently without the city's blessing.

Pytel acknowledged there are numerous other energy suppliers available in today's market due to energy deregulation.

"We feel that our program is responsible and offers a lot of savings," she said. "Our program promotes energy efficiency. Every resident who participates gets four CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) light bulbs."

The caucus also donates CFL light bulbs to local food pantries to benefit low-income residents, she said.

Des Plaines 6th Ward Alderman Mark Walsten said he supported the caucus' program and has switched to Integrys himself.

"These people aren't making a penny off of this company," Walsten said. "They are trying to show us what the best deal is out there. They went through all these companies and vetted them out. It's up to (residents) if they want to join."

Walsten said he supports the caucus' program and urged his ward residents to switch.

If Des Plaines wanted instead to opt for electric aggregation and switch all its residents to a new supplier, it would have to wait until the November general election to place a referendum question on the ballot, and provided a majority of voters agreed, go to bid for a new provider.

That process could mean residents won't see any savings until February 2013, Pytel said.

If Des Plaines residents choose to go with Integrys, they will be locked in until May 2013. If they decide to opt out once the program starts, there is a $50 fee.

Residents who switch their electric supply by going to integrysenergy.com/esp. would still receive a bill from ComEd with Integrys listed as the energy supplier.

Should ComEd's price drop significantly lower than Integrys, residents' bills would automatically default to ComEd as the energy provider, Pytel said.

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