Champaign, Urbana Voters Face Electric Aggregation Vote in March

December 21, 2011

Voters in Champaign and Urbana will see a referendum on the March primary ballot, asking them if they want their city to launch an electric aggregation program.

Electric aggregation is the concept of bundling together all residential and small business electric accounts within a community, and seeking bids to get lower power prices from retail suppliers.

Urbana environmental sustainability manager Bart Hagston said more than 100 communities in Ameren's Illinois territory are giving voters this option. If they opt to take part, he said their billing routine will stay pretty much the same.

"People would still receive their bill from Ameren, because would still be the lines and the wires that the electricity is coming through, " he said. "You would still call Ameren if there's a power outage, there's just a different supplier for that electricity and they bill through Ameren, so people won't see much of a change."

Hagston says if an aggregation program is approved by voters, the city would then select an alternate electricity supplier through a competitive bidding process. Once a supplier is in place, electric customers would have the option to "opt-out" of the program at no charge. They could continue with regular Ameren service, or choose another alternate supplier, such as Direct Energy or Constellation Energy.

Hagston said for some customers, such as those relying on percentage of income payment plans, opting out wouldn't make sense. He said a consultant will be in Urbana next month to discuss the pros and cons of the aggregation option to community groups.

Meanwhile, the Champaign County Board voted Tuesday night to postpone a decision on the electric aggregate ballot question until May - meaning voters in unincorporated parts of the county will not see the item on their ballots until November at the earliest.

(UPDATE: This story has been revised for clarity).

Story source: WILL