BELLEVILLE - Though voters approved Belleville to bargain for cheaper electricity, the city council must still make critical decisions regarding municipal electric aggregation, including what type of energies to use and the lengths of contracts with the new energy supplier.
During a special meeting Monday night, the council took two major steps to move forward with electric aggregation. The council unanimously approved an electrical aggregation program plan of operation and governance and authorized the city to contract with the lowest bidder for the supply of electricity.
However, some decisions still have to be made. Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said he would like residents to contact the city if they have strong feelings about which type of energy sources they want to use or how long the contract should be.
The council will likely make decisions on those two aspects of the electric aggregation contract during the council meeting Monday, Dec. 3.
The city has decided not to collect an additional fee to pay for administrative costs, according to Eckert. He said the goal of electric aggregation was to save residents money on their energy bills.
The guidelines outlined by the council will be followed by the city's two appointees, Eckert and City Clerk Linda Fields, during a bid presentation on Dec. 11 in Granite City.
Good Energy Business Development Director Philip Carr said Belleville will be joined by 22 other metro-east cities. Good Energy is the energy management consultant company hired by the city to oversee the electric aggregation process.
In all, 60 cities encompassing 200,000 households are part of the "large buying group" requesting bids from five or six national energy suppliers, according to Carr. Two other "bid day" meetings will be held in Illinois - one in Decatur and one in Charleston. All three locations will be able to communicate via teleconference.
During back-to-back public hearings prior to the special council meeting Monday, residents and aldermen asked questions and voiced their opinions regarding the city's electric aggregation plan.
Erin Wittlich, who said she was with the Metro-East Green Party, would like to see the city opt for 100 percent renewable energy.
If the cost difference between renewable and traditional energy isn't drastic, Eckert said he would be in favor of going with renewable energy.
"It behooves the city to try to go in the direction of renewable or green energy, if it doesn't impact our savings," he said.
Ward Seven Alderwoman Lillian Schneider said she's concerned about taking away jobs from the coal miners in Southern Illinois if the city decides to go with a renewable energy supplier.
The council has the option of going with 100 percent renewable energy, 50 percent renewable energy or traditional.
Jerod McMorris of Good Energy previously said the cost difference between traditional and 100 percent green energy is, on average, less than $1 per month per household.
In regards to the city's contract with the winning supplier, Eckert said he's in favor of a 17-month or 24-month term length. The contract length could be 12 months, 17 months, two years or three years, according to Carr.
If at any time during the contract with the new supplier Ameren's rates dip below the rate residents would pay, Carr said the winning supplier must match Ameren's rate or all residents will automatically revert back to getting electricity from Ameren as part of a price-match guarantee in the contract. Residents already signed on with an alternative electricity supplier, or programs such as Power Smart Pricing, should compare their savings with the new rate, Carr said.
Such residents are automatically excluded from the group purchase and would need to enroll in the program.
Regardless of the supplier selected Dec. 11, Ameren will continue to handle outages and billing.
After "bid day," residents will have two chances to opt out of the program. Residents should get mailers, one from the winning supplier and another from Ameren, that will show the new rate and explain the opt-out process.
Carr said residents will start receiving official letters from the city of Belleville within 10 days of the winning supplier being selected. Residents will have 19 days to opt out of the program.
Following that window, residents will still be able to exit the program by paying a $25 early termination fee, according to Carr.
"There's no rational reason somebody would want to get out," he said, adding typically only 3 to 7 percent of residents opt out of the program.
If residents want to be a part of the program, Carr said they have to take no action as all residents are automatically enrolled in the program.
He estimated residents will see savings on their electricity bills in February or March of next year.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or email@example.com.