Mt. Vernon Register-News

March 6, 2013

Residents no show at aggregation hearing

It was the first of a series of hearings on the electric aggregation referendum

By TESA GLASS
tesa.glass@register-news.com

MT. VERNON — — No residents showed up for the first of a series of hearings on the electric aggregation referendum which will be on the April 9 ballot.

"We want to be sure people understand what they will be voting on," said Jeff Haarmann of Affordable Gas and Electric, the consultant chosen by area municipalities for the aggregation.

AGE made a presentation for representatives of municipalities that did attend Monday's hearing. The presentation began with information about who is eligible for opt-out aggregation and who is not eligible.

Those who are eligible are Ameren utility customers who are residential customers receiving service from Ameren on the DS-1 service rate and small commercial retail customers who use 15,000 kilowatts or less annually. Residents who get electrical service from cooperatives are not affected.

A series of "what if" questions were also answered through the presentation such as what happens when someone moves within the city, if someone moves into the community, or if the Ameren rate falls below a fixed rate if aggregation is approved by voters.

According to Haarmann, if a resident moves within the city or in an area that has passed the aggregation, the lower rates stay with the person — as long as they are not moving to a home whose electricity is provided by an electric cooperative.

When new people move into the community, the presentation states the new  resident will be contacted in a matter that depends on the winning bidder for electricity.

"They will either be automatically included with a phone call, or picked up periodically when a refreshed list of residents run," the presentation states.

If Ameren rates were to fall below the rate negotiated as part of the aggregate, Haarmann said "our price match language secures rates from going above our negotiated rate, but requires the winning bidder to take the rates down if the utility rate falls below our price."

Also, anyone who does not want to be included in an electric aggregation group, if the referendum passes, may opt out at any time, without penalty by making a phone call. Those who may already be under contract with another supplier will have the option to opt-in to the aggregate rates at any point.

Haarmann also wanted residents to know if the electric aggregation question passes on April 9, and a provider is chosen, bills will still come from Ameren and residents will still pay their bills to the company and call Ameren for service issues. Residents will still be able to do level, or budget, billing.

"If approved, lower electricity rates will be here by summer," Haarmann said. "We already are in pre-negotiations with five potential suppliers."

The five suppliers are Ameren Energy Marketing/Homefield Energy which has nearly 400,000 municipal aggregation customers at this time; Constellation, the largest U.S. retail energy supplier; AEP Energy, which recently purchased Blue Star Energy in Chicago; Energy, ME, a privately owned Chicago-based supplier; and First Energy Solutions, which recently won a bid of more than 100,000 customers in Ameren IL.

According to the presentation, a typical household in Illinois uses 12,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year with an average price to compare rate of .569 per kWh. The estimated savings under electric aggregation is 10 to 25 percent on the electricity supply portion of a customer bill.

"Our role is to do the shopping on your behalf and on behalf of the entire group of communities we represent," information from AGE states.

Another public hearing on aggregation will be held 6 p.m. on March 18 at the Rolland W. Lewis Community Building at Veterans Park.