Referendum Asks About Energy Aggregation

If approved, CUB estimates savings of $100 million to $150 million for consumers in first five months

A referendum on the November ballot aims right for the wallet.

The question reads:

"Shall the City of Chicago 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 program?"

If approved, the city of Chicago and dozens of other communities could step in and offer big cuts to electrical bills.

Energy suppliers have been fighting for Commonwealth Edison customers and now the city is jumping in, asking voters to decide if they want the city to buy electricity in bulk for better rates for residents.

"We estimate Chicago consumers could save $100 million, perhaps $150 million in the first five months," said David Kolata with the Citizens Utility Board.

A 2009 state law allows municipalities to negotiate power prices. But even voters who cast a "yes" vote could opt out of the plan and stay with ComEd.

"It's something that people aren't used to voting on but it certainly could have a big impact on our pocketbooks," said Kolata.

CUB launched the online Chicago Power Center, outlining the potential savings. In the 175 communities that have already tried "municipal aggregation," customers -- on average -- pay $0.483 per kWh versus $0.832 per kWh with ComEd.

Whatever savings do come out of the vote would only be guaranteed until June 2013, at which time a new contract would would be renegotiated.

"Long term, I really don't think we've had a true test of this model. Whether or not it'll consistently produce savings and consistently beat the ComEd energy price I think is very much an open question," said Kolata.

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