BELLEVILLE — Residents who attended a meeting on electric aggregation Monday seemed convinced of the concept's cost-saving ability and assured they would be protected from higher rates.
Jim Chadderton, of Belleville, said he was set on voting against the binding referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot before he attended the hour-long question-and-answer session at City Hall.
"I didn't really know if I wanted the city to do this on my behalf," Chadderton said.
Then he learned of a safeguard that would ensure residents get the cheapest rate.
Chadderton became more comfortable with the proposal knowing the new electric supply company would match Ameren's prices if the competitor's rate were to drop anytime during the contract.
And, if for some reason the new company cannot match the lower rate, residents could return to Ameren without being charged an early termination fee.
"To me, you can't lose," Chadderton said.
Belleville residents will decide in the general election whether they want the city to bid for cheaper electricity supply prices on behalf of residents and small commercial retail customers.
If so, Belleville will join perhaps 60 other Illinois municipalities to leverage their bulk buying power for low bids from energy suppliers.
Residents might have annual savings of 25 to 29 percent, or $180 to $200 per household, according to Good Energy, an energy management consultant company representing Belleville and the other cities. The estimated figures are based on savings seen by residents in the 52 cities in Illinois who already have electric aggregation.
Residents could see the electricity supply portion of their bill decrease from about 5.8 cents per kilowatt-hour to less than 4.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, Good Energy consultant Jerod McMorris told attendees on Monday.
Attendees asked about Good Energy's stake and what they should expect if the referendum passes, such as the bidding process in which cities will choose a new electric supplier.
McMorris said the cities will first go out to bid in December and choose between five to seven companies based on factors such as: What is the best rate? Should the contract be for one, two or three years? Do residents want renewable energy?
Even if the referendum passes in November, city officials could later decide to stop the electric aggregation process if the bids are not favorable. If so, residents would stay with their current electric supplier.
Good Energy does not charge the city for its services, McMorris said. The company's consultant fees are factored into suppliers' bids.
"Our company is on your side... We are negotiating for you with the energy supply company," McMorris said.
A couple weeks after municipalities decide on a supplier, residents will get two mailers -- one from the new utility supplier and one from Ameren -- showing their current electric supply rate and the new supply rate, McMorris said.
The mailer will also ask if residents want to opt out of participating. If residents want to opt out, they send a form back. If residents want to participate, they do nothing.
Residents who choose to participate should see savings on the supply portion of their electric bills by February, McMorris said.
Residents who already have an alternative electric supplier -- instead of Ameren -- have already opted out, in a sense, McMorris said. But such residents should still vote "yes" on the referendum so other residents could save money and, depending on termination fees, it might make more sense for the resident to change electric suppliers.
Jan Gedda, of Belleville, was one of about 25 residents and city officials who attended the meeting. She said she wanted to learn more about electric aggregation, an unfamiliar topic for residents.
Gedda said she's afraid the referendum might not pass because voters don't understand it.
"But I'm definitely for it," she said. "First off, the mayor and the city is behind it. And when you have the power of the people, it seems to me it would save the people money."
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.