By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — CARTERVILLE — Ten Chambers of Commerce in Southern Illinois are joining efforts with the Jefferson County group to purchase electricity in bulk, which is expected to save member businesses utility costs.
Chambers in Benton, Carbondale, Carterville, Centralia, Herrin, Lawrence County, Marion, Murphysboro, Salem and West Frankfort all are joining efforts with Mt. Vernon based Affordable Gas & Electric, LLC., along with exclusive pricing retail energy supplier Ameren Energy Marketing in a group electricity buying group for members of the respective Chambers. The groups unveiled the plan Wednesday during a press conference conference in Carterville.
The effort builds on a pilot program which began last fall. In October 2012, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and AGE launched a program for its members. To date, the program has been successful with nearly 130 Chamber members members participating and securing significant savings as a group, a news release stated.
“Our membership is constantly bombarded with phone calls from telemarketers offering savings on the electricity,” stated Brandon Bullard, executive director of the Chamber. “We were able to help our membership by implementing a program whereby the members could look to the Chamber to help give them direction on deregulated electricity. By combining our membership, we were able to help secure bulk pricing for our members, giving them bulk purchasing power that wasn’t available to them by negotiating on their own.”
Affordable Gas & Electric recently assisted 28 communities in Southern Illinois with the passage of residential electric aggregation referendums. With awareness of group purchasing at peak, AGE looked to further expand the buying group associated with the JCCC.
“We approached Brandon about growing our negotiating power by joining other Chambers in Southern Illinois. He set up a meeting to present the idea, and before you knew it, the group began to take shape,” stated Jeff Haarmann, managing partner of AGE.
A final piece of the puzzle was the agreement to price this group’s electricity load exclusively through the only retail electricity supplier in Southern Illinois, Ameren Energy Marketing. AEM, based in Collinsville, employs 100 people in the region. Haarmann noted that AEM has consistently been the most competitively priced supplier represented by AGE and has committed to a “substantial rate offering” for this group.
Participating members of Jefferson County’s Chamber program collectively are saving more than $500,000 annually or nearly 29 percent on their commercial electricity supply rates, the release stated. Depending upon participation from Chamber members in Southern Illinois, the potential economic impact to the region could mean well over $1.5 to $2 million of savings, Haarmann projected.
More information regarding each specific Chamber of Commerce’s program is available from the Chamber websites or by contacting the Chamber office. Non-Chamber members are encouraged to join the Chamber for the opportunity to join this electricity buying group, the release stated.