MT. VERNON —
All villages and unincorporated areas of Jefferson County will be voting on the question of electric aggregation in April.
According to information from Jeff Haarmann of Affordable Gas and Electric, his company will be representing more than 20,000 households total in Southern Illinois.
AGE has been chosen as the consultant for electric aggregation for the city of Mt. Vernon, the unincorporated areas of Jefferson County, Ina, Bluford, Dix, Waltonville, Woodlawn, Bonnie and Belle Rive. In addition, the company has signed with unincorporated areas of Washington County, Nashville, Ashley, New Minden, Okawville, Central City, Junction City, Odin, Iuka, Kinmundy, Patoka, Lawrenceville, Grayville, Crossville, St. Elmo and Watson.
Haarmann said he is pleased to have a “great cross section of customers to bring to the table and negotiate with.”
“We’ve spoken with three or four suppliers at this point,” Haarmann said. “They are just as interested in getting 6,000 customers at one time as they are to get 15,000 or 20,000 all at one time.”
The next step toward electric aggregation is for voters to approve the referendum in April.
“If the vote is approved, that allows us to begin negotiating,” Haarmann explained. “Once approved, we can negotiate then get the rates back, bring them to the individual mayors and it’s up to them to accept the price on behalf of their community.”
Haarmann said he wants all voters to know there are protections built into electric aggregation by statute, and anyone can opt out of electric aggregation and continue to purchase their electricity without a change in the service provider. In addition, although all voters will have an opportunity to cast their ballot on the question, only Ameren customers in this area are eligible for electric aggregation — Tri-County Electric Cooperative members already own a part of their electric service provider.
“When we negotiate a fixed rate, that rate can’t go up during the course of the term we negotiate,” Haarmann explained. “But, if the Ameren utility rate falls below the negotiated rate we have, we have the flexibility to either renegotiate with the supplier for a lower rate or can default everyone back to the Ameren rate. ... The rate can’t go up, and there’s also a safety net if the rate ever falls below what we secure.”
The referendum will state: “Shall the (City/Village/County) have the authority to arrange for a supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such a program?”
Illinois businesses have had the opportunity to use their own chosen electric supplier for about eight or nine years, Haarmann said.
“The rules in Illinois changed about a year-and-a-half ago to make it easier for municipalities to combine their communities together to get a better rate for their residents,” Haarmann said. “Other communities are also taking advantage of the changes.”
Haarmann said the Illinois Commerce Commission has a website which addresses residential electric aggregation at www.pluginillinois.org.
“On that site, there is a section, a tab, on municipal aggregation,” Haarmann said. “It includes a list of every community in the state that has either passed a referendum or has a referendum approved and is waiting for a price.”
Residents who would like to learn more may also contact Haarmann at 207-3450 and go to a Facebook page set up by Haarmann, “Vote yes for lower electricity rates in City of Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County.”