The electric bills of Brookfield’s residential and small businesses could shrink by as much as $175 per year, Manager Riccardo Ginex told village trustees at Monday’s meeting, if the village can follow other municipalities and aggregate its electrical power buying. But first, the aggregation needs be approved by voters in a March 20, 2012 referendum, said Ginex.

Brookfield is among many local municipalities taking advantage of a 1997 change in energy regulation that allows large entities like cities to negotiate to buy power at lower electric rates.

Currently, most electricity customers in the village buy their electric power from Com Ed which charges $0.0779 cents per kilowatt hour.

Ginex said the village staff met with a power broker from Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative (NIMEC) which has negotiated deals for close to $0.0589 kw/hr.

Other nearby municipalities that have aggregated their energy buying include: Oak Park, Oak Brook, New Lenox, Sugar Grove and many others. NIMEC has worked with more than 100 municipalities to broker power buying, according to a memo given to the board.

“Com Ed is indifferent to this aggregation,” said Ginex, saying that Com Ed only charges to deliver the power, which can be provided from other sources.

Under the proposed aggregation plan, Brookfield residents would still receive a bill from Com Ed, and the Com Ed delivery portion of the bill would remain the same. Residents would continue to call Com Ed for service disruptions. Savings would be in the purchasing of the power itself. Com Ed continues to deliver the power through its grid, regardless of the supplier.

Ginex said all eligible residents and small businesses would be enrolled, unless they chose to “opt out” of the aggregation and continue to purchase the more expensive electricity from Com Ed, or switch to a competitive power supplier “as many have already done.”

Legislation passed by the State of Illinois allows municipalities to become purchasing agents and negotiate a lower priced power deal if a referendum is approved by residents. The deadline for inclusion on the March 2012 ballot is January 3, 2012, said Ginex.

Trustee Cathy Edwards said an education program is needed to explain to residents how the power aggregation works. Board President Michael Garvey cautioned that the village cannot use village resources to influence voters for a referendum, but Trustee Kit Ketchmark suggested looking at campaigns developed by surrounding towns and incorporating their best ideas.

The question on the referendum would read: “Shall the Village of Brookfield have authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small retail commercial customers who have not opted out of such a program?”

If the ballot issue was approved, NIMEC would attempt to negotiate a lower rate on behalf of the Village of Brookfield. If no lower rate could be negotiated, the village would continue its relationship with Com Ed.

Two public hearings would be held after the ballot before going to bid in June, 2012. According to NIMEC, residents could expect to see their bills lowered by the end of the summer.

The board will vote at its Nov. 28 meeting to put power aggregation on the referendum.