By NICK MARIANO
MT. VERNON — —
Board members of the city’s high school district are hoping to save money on its electric bill by joining a bulk purchasing program this week and in the process help small business owners do the same.
The program is offered to members of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and is being facilitated by Mt. Vernon-based Affordable Gas and Electric, a chamber member.
“If the high school was willing to join the aggregation pool through the chamber, then your usage would help pull along all the smaller businesses in town that don’t have the same negotiating pull,” Jeff Haarmann, the managing partner and owner of AGE, told Mt. Vernon Township High School District board members this week.
The savings to the district for joining the aggregation group, Haarmann estimated, could be about $30,000. He also explained that there is no risk to the district since the aggregate is only in the pricing stage and that the board will not have to commit to new pricing until Nov. 12.
Should electric rates fail to go as low as estimated through the aggregate, the high school board will still be able to secure lower rates as previously brokered by AGE with wholesale supplier Energy.me of Chicago, Haarmann said. He also advised board members to not commit to any supplier for more than three years given the potential for lower rates due to deregulation.
The overall projected cost savings for the aggregate, Haarmann said, is $100,000, though two weeks remain for more chamber members to sign up for the program. The last day to join is Oct. 31. The more in the group — in terms of electric consumption — the greater the savings potential in establishing a negotiated rate.
Businesses unable to sign up before the deadline would still be eligible for the program but would not necessarily be able to get the same rate as the original aggregate, Haarmann said. The aggregate covers a two-year commitment beginning with January bills.
With the high school now in the group, it has 11 million kilowatt hours of consumption to bargain with, Chamber Executive Director Brandon Bullard said.
He declined to say how many of his 600 members have signed up for the program or who some of the larger businesses are currently in the aggregate. He did say, aside from the high school district, that one other “really big” business has opted in.
“Any chance we have to save money for our members we jump all over it,” Bullard said.
Haarmann and his company would negotiate on behalf of the aggregate program exclusively with Ameren Energy Marketing for new rates. AEM, based in Collinsville and part of Ameren Corp., supplies energy to business customers, energy aggregators and buying groups in Illinois, according to its website.
Other government bodies in the group to date are the villages of Bluford, Waltonville and Woodlawn. The aggregate’s buying power will also be combined with other groups AGE represents including the Belleville Archdiocese and businesses in Effingham for a total of 20 million kilowatt hours.
“I think as a whole community any time we can save money we have to take advantage,” Waltonville Village President Randy Dees said, adding the village stands to save about 15 percent on its electric bill. He could not immediately say how much the village is currently spending.
Haarmann said his company has presented the aggregate proposal to the Jefferson County Board but that decision is still pending.