Northbrook residents will have the chance to vote their electrical bills a little lower in March 2012.
The board of trustees voted Tuesday night to start the process of drafting a referendum on “electrical aggregation.” Passed into law in 2009, electrical aggregation allows villages to pool residential and business accounts, then seek bids from alternate electric distributors in order to negotiate a better rate. Since the law was passed, at least 19 Illinois municipalities have entered into agreements with alternative electric suppliers, which require a community vote by referendum.
“So far, the reviews have been positive,” management analyst Kendal Dean told trustees during a presentation on electrical aggregation at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
Currently, any resident or business owner can drop ComEd as a supplier and purchase electricity on an individual basis from one of 23 alternative companies approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission. If voters pass the referendum In March, the village will hold public hearings on the parameters of the program before seeking bids from suppliers.
Northbrook is among eight local municipalities that may partner together if the measure is approved. Other villages include Deerfield, Evanston, Highland Park, , , Park Ridge and Skokie. Highland Park's village board has already passed a resolution to put a referendum before voters, while the other villages are in earlier stages of the process, according to Dean.
Although some villages, , have sought alternative suppliers on their own, others—such as Grayslake, Oak Brook and Lincolnwood—have combined forces to save money.
“The ones that have been bidding out together have seen a better rate,” Dean said.
Grayslake, Oak Brook and Lincolnwood will save their residents and business owners more than 25 percent on the supply cost of their electric rate, according to Oak Brook village manager David Niemeyer.
Under any scenario, ComEd will remain the distributor of electricity. That means that customers with outages will still call ComEd to report the loss of power, and bills will still come from the same place. Customers who wish to remain with ComEd will have a specific time period for opting out before the utility charges a fee to do so.
Given the go-ahead from trustees, village staff will now draft a resolution to put a referendum before voters, which the village board will consider at its next meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 13. Trustees must approve the resolution by Jan. 3 for inclusion on the March 2012 ballot.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misstated how far Highland Park has gotten in the process of electrical aggregation. While the village board has passed a resolution to go out for a referendum in March 2012, voters have not yet cast their ballots. We sincerely apologize for the error.