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updated: 5/1/2012 10:59 AM

Suburban consortium chooses energy supplier

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A consortium of seven North and Northwest suburbs has opted to go with Chicago-based Integrys Energy Services as its electricity supplier, a move expected to save the towns' 260,000 residents 42 percent on their energy supply costs over ComEd's current rate.

The communities -- Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire, Long Grove, Palatine, Vernon Hills and Wheeling -- received voter approval March 20 for electric aggregation, allowing them to band together to negotiate better energy rates for residents and small businesses.

The Northwest Consortium, one of the largest in the state, received eight bids from alternative retail electric suppliers, of which Integrys was the best choice because it offered 100 percent renewable energy sources, Buffalo Grove Village President Jeffrey Braiman said.

"We believe we got the best price," Braiman said. "We consolidated 260,000 people. Because of that, we were able to negotiate a better rate than on an individual basis."

While one other company quoted the same price as Integrys, officials found hidden costs upon digging further, said Scott Shirley, Arlington Heights' director of public works and the village's representative on the consortium committee.

The consortium secured a rate of 4.775 cents per kilowatt hour compared to ComEd's April 2012 residential supply rate of 8.266 cents per kilowatt hour. The fees paid by participants for electricity generation go to purchase renewable energy certificates from wind resources, according to a news release.

"While we wanted to achieve significant savings for our residents, we also wanted to be proactive in protecting our natural resources," Palatine Mayor Jim Schwantz said in the release. "To save more than 40 percent and use renewable energy was an outstanding accomplishment."

Residents will start to see savings as early as June, with their electric bills going down roughly 20 percent. The electricity usage portion of a utility bill makes up about two-thirds of the total. ComEd's cost of delivering power will not change.

Eligible residents and small commercial customers will receive letters from their respective towns and Integrys in the next several days describing the program. Residents may still opt out of the electricity aggregation program. Those residents who have expiring contracts with another supplier would be required to opt in to their community's program if interested.

The consortium's contract with Integrys is in effect until June 30, 2013, with the option of extending it for two more years. By 2013, ComEd's own energy supply price is expected to drop and reflect the current market rate.

Integrys, whose parent company owns Peoples Gas, has been the most aggressive of the energy providers vying for a piece of the Illinois electric aggregation market. Last year, the company signed contracts to supply electricity to residents of Oak Park, Oak Brook, North Aurora, and Grayslake. Since 2011, Integrys has inked deals with 19 communities that voted for electric aggregation, said Brian Bowe, Illinois direct mass market manager for Integrys Energy Services.

Braiman said several suburbs are pushing a proposal being considered by lawmakers to allow the same aggregation process for natural gas.

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