CHICAGO, Feb. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As nearly 300 communities across Illinois prepare to hold referendums on a monumental change in how their electricity prices are determined—asking residents if they want local leaders to negotiate power prices with ComEd and Ameren competitors—the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) on Tuesday released a guide to help consumers make an informed vote.
CUB's Guide to Municipal Electricity Aggregation is at www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org.
"With the introduction of electricity choice in Illinois, being a customer has suddenly become a lot more complicated," CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. "Electricity choice must be an informed choice. Whether you vote for or against municipal aggregation, you should be armed with the facts and that's why CUB created its Guide to Municipal Aggregation."
Thanks to a 2007 state law, local governments can negotiate electricity prices with unregulated power companies on behalf of residents. According to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), at least 276 communities or counties have referendums on the March 20 ballot asking residents if they want local government to launch municipal aggregation.
Municipal aggregation is based on the idea that there is strength in numbers. Just as large industrial companies can potentially negotiate lower power prices with alternative suppliers because of the amount of energy they use, communities could also negotiate lower prices using the collective buying power of their populations.
CUB's Guide to Municipal Electricity Aggregation includes a checklist of key facts that every voter should know, including:
*You don't have to take part in community aggregation. Even if you vote for community aggregation and your community passes a referendum in favor of it, you will not be required to sign up with an alternative electricity supplier. You can opt out of the program.
*Community aggregation does not mean you will avoid utility rate hikes. It just means a different company is supplying your electricity. Your utility—Ameren or ComEd—will still charge you for delivering the power to your home. Those "delivery" rates are what go up when the ICC grants utility increases. So, even if you participate in community aggregation, you will still get billed for those "delivery" charges—along with the alternative supplier's charges.
*Find out if the alternative supplier charges an exit fee. If your community launches an aggregation program and you want to participate, read the fine print of the proposed offer. Find out if you are locked into a rate for a certain period of time, and if the alternative supplier will charge you an exit fee if you want to get out early. Utility power prices have been tied to long-term, higher priced contracts that are set to expire over the next 18 months. So you should find out if you will have the flexibility to drop out of an alternative supplier offer if ComEd and Ameren prices drop significantly in June of 2013.
*What happens at the end of a contract with an alternative supplier? If you go with an alternative supplier through community aggregation, read the fine print to see what happens at the end of your contract. A company may try to automatically renew you at the end of the contract—and that may not be the best deal for you.
*Focus on the price and the term of the offer. It may be a basic detail, but it's also the most important detail. If your community passes an aggregation referendum, find out exactly what a potential power supplier is offering and how it compares to the price of ComEd or Ameren. The guide gives consumers the "price to compare" for the utility companies. Make sure the alternative supplier gives you an accurate price so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison.
CUB is Illinois' leading nonprofit utility watchdog organization. Created by the Illinois Legislature, CUB opened its doors in 1984 to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. Since then, CUB has helped save consumers more than $10 billion by blocking rate hikes and securing refunds. For more information, call CUB's Consumer Hotline at 1-800-669-5556, or visit www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org.
SOURCE Citizens Utility Board