Lombard discusses aggregating electricity

Updated 10/11/2011 2:58 PM

Under a recent change in state law, municipalities can group their residents together, seek bids from electricity suppliers other than ComEd, and help residents save between 20 and 25 percent on their electricity bills.

To some Lombard officials, the idea of electric aggregation sounds too good to be true.

But the village is considering placing a question about the topic on the March 20 primary election ballot to let voters decide.

Electric aggregation helps residents save on the cost of generating power, which accounts for about two thirds of the average bill, Finance Director Tim Sexton said. The savings would come from contracting with a company that will supply power at a lower cost than ComEd.

Residents already can switch to a cheaper power source on their own, but Sexton said combining customers into large groups leads providers to offer better deals.

"Municipal aggregation is producing about twice the savings an individual can get on their own," he said.

And based on data from 11 Illinois municipalities that already have received bids from new electricity suppliers, the savings have averaged between $175 and $200 a year for a typical customer, Sexton said.

If Lombard puts a question on the ballot and voters agree to let the village seek bids for cheaper electricity, customers could transition to a new supplier by late summer, 2012.

The village also may consider joining with other area communities to create an even larger group of customers.

"The winners are the localities and the customer base who are seeing substantial savings," Village Manager David Hulseberg said.

Village President Bill Mueller said he wondered if village government would be seen as the middle man between a potential new electricity supplier and residents, and if elected officials and staff members might be forced to field complaints if residents don't save as much money as they expect.

"My first impulse is we've got to go with it, but it sounds like it's too good to be true in many ways," Mueller said.

But Trustee Laura Fitzpatrick said the possibility of saving residents money overrides those concerns.

"I don't see a downside to this. It's just a little nerve-racking because it's a new concept," she said. "I think it's a good idea. I like that we can do this for our residents and give them a unified bargaining power."

Trustees will continue discussions at a later date.

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