When Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside jumped aboard the electrical aggregation bandwagon in 2012, they could not have picked a better time. Rates for electricity through ComEd were sky high while other energy providers offered the same commodity for half the cost.
But in 2015, it appears as though the aggregation train is pulling out of the station. Municipalities that passed referendums to allow aggregation are dropping out of the program in favor of ComEd, whose rates in many cases are now lower than rates other companies can provide.
Brookfield chose to abandon aggregation last summer and North Riverside dropped the program earlier this year after its former provider, First Energy Solutions, declined to bid to be the village’s service provider and failed to obtain new bids that were lower than ComEd’s rates.
Meanwhile, Riverside is still clinging to its contract with First Energy despite the fact that the rate First Energy is charging residents has been slightly higher than ComEd’s rate since the village’s three-year contract with First Energy began last July.
While ComEd charges customers 7.572 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, First Energy has been charging Riverside customers 7.81 cents per kilowatt-hour, a figure that takes into account Riverside’s request for 100 percent “green” energy.
While the power Riverside gets does not come from 100 percent sustainable sources, such as wind-generated power, First Energy issues Riverside credits to help build new sources of sustainable energy.
It’s the village’s quest to keep the village on a 100 percent green energy model that has stopped officials from summarily terminating its contract with First Energy and going back to ComEd, which does not provide a totally green option.
Riverside could terminate its contract at any time because it demanded, and got, an escape clause in its contract with First Energy. But in both January and again last month, village trustees were reluctant to pull the rip cord.
On Feb. 19, Riverside sought new bids from electricity aggregators, hopeful that one might come in below ComEd rates while providing a 100 percent green option. The village received two bids, one of which was below the current ComEd rate.
Dynegy offered a two-year contract charging 7.318 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 12 months and 6.967 cents for the second 12 months.
Those rates would have meant Riverside households paying about $3.60 less per month than if customers had power supplied through ComEd, said Sharon Durling, the marketing director for the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Cooperative (NIMEC), which advises the village on its aggregation program.
But village trustees decided instead to wait until April to seek more bids, hoping for greater savings for residents.
“For $3.60, I don’t think we should be rushed into a decision,” said Trustee Joseph Ballerine.
One other wild card in the deck is that ComEd will announce its own new rate in June. It’s hard to tell if ComEd’s rate will increase or decrease. Riverside likely will seek new bids on April 16, the date of its second regular meeting that month.
Prior to July 2014, aggregation was a deal for residents. Even with the village’s rate through First Energy being higher than ComEd’s for the past eight months, since the summer of 2012 participants in the village’s aggregation program have saved a combined $900,000 in electricity costs, according to NIMEC.
According to Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances, households participating in the aggregation plan saved an average of $341 from the start of the program in 2012 to July 1, 2014.
Since July 1, 2014, when First Energy’s contract went into effect, those same households have paid $46 more than they would have using ComEd as their electrical supplier. So the total net savings for the average participating customer since the program began is $295.
In the meantime, if customers want to opt out of the village’s aggregation program and choose ComEd or another provider to supply electricity, they can opt out. From the start of the program in 2012 until July 1, 2014, said Frances, 13 percent of customers had opted out. Since July 2014, said Frances, about 7 percent of Riverside electric customers have opted out of aggregation and have switched to other providers.
In order to opt out of the village’s aggregation program, customers need only contact their preferred new supplier and enroll. Neither First Energy nor the village needs to be contacted. The new supplier will inform First Energy of the switch, which takes 45 to 60 days (or between one and two billing cycles) to complete.