In recent years, Riverside and Brookfield residents have been confronted with all sorts of referendums that seek to take more money from them. So, residents may be slightly suspicious about a referendum question they’ll see on the March 20 primary ballot.

The question will ask residents to allow their village to seek a contract with an electrical supplier and pass that rate along to customers in the municipality. The natural reaction to such a question is, “OK, who’s getting what out of this?” and “How much more is this going to cost me?”

And it’s true that there’s a third party involved in all of this – the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Cooperative (NIMEC), which stands to gain from the result of the referendum. NIMEC, at least in Riverside and probably in Brookfield, will be the agency serving to negotiate the new electric rates with providers. They’ll get a cut of the action.

But past history and the current cost of electric power have shown that seeking better electric rates for their residents has really worked. Now, it may be just for a few years before the state agency that sets electric rates for ComEd customers can catch up and begin competing with the other electricity suppliers out there.

But for the time being, NIMEC has shown it can get municipal electric customers lower rates – like 25 percent lower on the power supply portion of their bill. And if the result is to get the state agency to become more competitive in the future, then electric aggregation appears to be a win-win for residential electric customers, who can use any break they can get on utility costs.

With water rates spiking ever higher, any plan to contain electricity costs is more than welcome.

It’s also a chance for the villages to commit to green energy production. While it will end up costing slightly more to do so, the village can purchase renewable energy credits. That money can then be used toward the expansion of sustainable energy production.

Whether either village will do that is uncertain at this time, although both have committed to green infrastructure projects and initiatives in the past. Riverside residents passed a referendum a couple of years ago confirming they wanted green initiatives implemented as part of village policy.

Since then, the board has approved bike routes, the construction of green alleys and the construction of a green parking lot. Riverside is applying for funds to build another green parking lot near the downtown train station.

Brookfield has also applied for grant funding for a green parking lot at its village hall site, so we see no reason for the village’s to skip a commitment to sustainable energy in its push for aggregation.

We urge residents in both villages to vote for the referendum question and start seeing savings on their electric bills by late summer 2012.