Kane County may let residents opt out of ComEd

Updated 8/17/2011 4:55 PM

Residents in Kane County's unincorporated areas may receive the option of dealing with a company other than ComEd to receive their electricity, possibly trimming their utility bill in the same fashion as many local private businesses.

A county board committee listened to testimony Wednesday from Arnie Schramel of the Progressive Energy Group, a natural gas and electricity auditing agency.

Schramel told the committee 76 percent of the commercial market in Illinois now receives their electricity through a vendor other than ComEd. But residents haven't seen the same level of migration because the savings of moving to another vendor only manifest when large groups of people all make the switch at the same time. Schramel said a recent change in state law now allows counties and municipalities the same flexibility to opt out of doing business directly with ComEd. Through referendum, 10 Illinois municipalities have already entered into contracts with other electric companies. Schramel said residents of those communities are now seeing lower electric bills thanks to rates that are 20 to 25 percent less than what ComEd charges. That's a savings of up to $200 a year for each customer, Schramel said.

Three Kane County area communities are now also in the process of moving away from ComEd: Sugar Grove, Elburn and North Aurora. Schramel urged the county to think about doing the same for its residents.

"You can actually save real money," Schramel said. "It's the power of aggregation."

Schramel said the other companies still use ComEd's infrastructure to deliver the electricity, so reliability may not be improve with such a switch. He also advised residents who live in a strictly rural area to not switch because they won't see the same savings without the same population densities. Schramel said the savings might also dwindle in the future as the rates ComEd's contracted with the state to provide may drop in coming years, in part because of increased competition.

"This isn't a you-do-it-once-and-you-forget-about-it move," Schramel said. "You'd really only make the move if there's some significant savings. And right now, the way the market is set up, there are significant savings."

The committee decided it'd like the entire county board to take a look at the idea and the numbers behind it before deciding if the savings is worth putting a referendum on the ballot.