If you drive over the Poplar Street Bridge in the next few weeks, you will see a billboard showing a pink piggy bank and some dollar bills, with the words:
"Vote Yes November 6th on Electricity Supply Proposition -- Save up to 28% or more."
It's alerting you to a referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot for residents in Belleville, O'Fallon, the unincorporated areas of St. Clair County, Collinsville, Granite City, Troy, Wood River, Pontoon Beach, Edwardsville, the unincorporated areas of Madison County and many more communities, well over 100,000 households in the metro-east.
The referendum question itself is located at the bottom of your ballot paper and in Belleville's case reads as follows:
"Shall Belleville have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such a program?"
If this referendum question is approved, it is expected to save individual households up to 28 percent on electric supply, about $150 to $200 per annum off your electricity bill. It's called Government Electric Aggregation and it could mean millions of dollars in electricity savings staying in communities across the metro-east.
This is how it works.
Illinois state law entitles municipalities and counties to propose a referendum, which, if approved, allows the community to put all its residential and small commercial electric accounts out to bid at the same time, creating bulk purchasing power. In order to maximize this, all of the above metro-east communities have banded together with other communities in central and Southern Illinois to form one buying group of more than 200,000 households and if this referendum is approved, will all be put out to bid together at the same time to the nation's largest and most competitive alternative retail energy suppliers so that a single household will have the same purchasing power as the largest industrial user.
Few people realize that Ameren Illinois residential customers can access some of the best electricity savings in the country attributable to a combination of the following factors:
Ameren residential customers are paying for power purchased in the past when markets were higher; there is a glut in the supply of natural gas, which drives the price of electricity wholesale markets caused by a wave of shale gas production and a dropoff in economic demand, and the leveraged purchasing power capability of government electric aggregation.
Other metro-east communities have already enacted this. Shiloh, Glen Carbon, Alton, Godfrey and Bethalto approved this referendum on the March primary ballot and signed contracts with a new supplier in May. Shiloh residents are now paying a rate of $0.0401 per kwh for electric supply, a saving of about 34 percent when compared to Ameren's 2012 summer rate and an annual saving of about 28 percent on electric supply. The majority of accounts switched over in July during one of the hottest summers in decades.
Ameren will remain your power delivery company. Changing energy supplier only relates to the supply portion of your bill, not the delivery. You will receive exactly the same quality service from Ameren both before and after switching. You will still receive one bill from Ameren and make one payment to Ameren. In the case of an outage, you should call Ameren. In Illinois' deregulated energy market, Ameren is an electricity delivery company. It makes no money on the energy supply, only on the transportation and distribution.
If the referendum is approved and you decide you do not want to participate in the program you will have two opportunities to opt-out at no cost.
Electric aggregation is free enterprise combined with the checks and balances of local government. My firm, Good Energy, is a national energy consultant, not a supplier, and we specialize in running large bids for aggregated electric loads. We create the competition to get you the best rate in the market.
This referendum is about having an opportunity to empower your community with the choice of buying electricity in bulk when electricity markets are at their lowest point in a decade. If the referendum is approved, you will have this additional energy supply option to choose from. New electricity supply rates would go into effect in January-February 2013.
Thank you and remember to vote on Nov. 6 -- and watch out for that pink pig.
To find out more, please go to www.munienergychoice.com for a video explaining aggregation, FAQs, media reports and blog posts.
Philip Carr is business development director of Good Energy, the energy consultant for all the communities mentioned in this article.