Aggregation an Important Choice on the March 20th Ballot
Many Sierra Club members throughout Illinois as well as countless other Illinoisans have the chance to move toward cheaper, greener energy through an important referendum on the March 20, 2012 primary ballot. In August, 2009, the Illinois legislature passed Public Act 96-0176, amending the Illinois Power Agency Act by allowing local governments to "aggregate" electrical load for the benefit of residential and small business customers. This new law allows municipalities to act, in essence, as wholesale electricity buyers for their residents, with the goal of getting cheaper and possibly greener power for ratepayers (Oak Park, for example, has been able to buy 100% renewable-energy-sourced power for 25% less than residents were paying before aggregation). As a result, hundreds of thousands of voters in scores of municipalities will see a question about "Community Choice Electricity Aggregation" or CCA on their ballot in the March 20 primary.
Aggregation, the last part of the deregulation process started over a decade ago, is a simple concept. Typically an electricity delivery company such as Com Ed (Illinois's biggest), which operates transmission lines and meters and handles billing, uses electricity from a primary source; in Com Ed's case, that company is Exelon Generation (both are subsidiaries of the parent company Exelon).
Deregulation allowed electrical customers to choose suppliers of electricity other than the utility's default supplier. Individuals in the Com Ed and Ameren service areas already can choose alternate suppliers but relatively few have done so, in part because the process seems complicated and customers are leery of getting electricity from a new entity. Larger customers such as industrial, commercial, and governmental entities have been the main ones to pursue cheaper suppliers.
"Aggregation" lets a county or municipality take the initiative to make a group contract on behalf of its citizens, assuming voters approve. Twenty Illinois municipalities have already done so and according to the Illinois Commerce Commission, hundreds more (including entire counties, such as Will County) are in the process of doing so by referendum.
If a community aggregates, the same delivery and transmission companies still deliver the electricity, service the lines and transformers, and send out bills. For example, a customer in Evanston, if voters there approve aggregation, will still get a Com Ed bill. Only the supplier name and (presumably) raw electricity price on the bill will change. It's not mandatory, either; customers who want to stick with Exelon as their supplier can "opt out," and customers who already are using an alternate supplier will also retain that relationship.
Casting a vote on aggregation is a good reason to participate in the upcoming election March 20. It's an opportunity to achieve real savings while increasing demand for and use renewable energy. For more information, and a flyer that you can forward (or print and hand out) to friends and family, see this downloadable Sierra Club Fact Sheet.