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Vote 2012 Preview: Electrical Aggregation
On November 6, voters in almost 18,000 homes in Sangamon County will see a question concerning municipal electrical aggregation on their ballots. It's a big word, and it's a complex issue that involves changing the electrical supplier for Ameren customers.
Basically, it boils down to whether voters want more choices for who supplies their electricity.
Ameren Illinois is in the business of delivering power to homes and businesses. The electricity itself comes from companies that make it through contracts.
"The Illinois Power Agency actually negotiates the contracts," Ameren's Leigh Morris said. "Those contracts are approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Then, once those two steps are taken, Ameren signs those contracts. We simply collect from the customer what we have paid for the electricity. Nothing more, nothing less."
That represents the largest part of the average power bill.
"About 60 percent of the bill," Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Doug Scott said. "About 30 percent is the distribution--the actual wires company. And then about 10 percent is transmission--the larger lines that bring it from the power sources to the distribution companies."
Aggregation deals with the first 60 percent.
"The theory behind it is, like you would have in other purchasing decisions, if a bunch of us can get together and buy all of our services at one time, theoretically that might mea the price would go down for doing that," Scott said.
There's a reason communities are exploring this option.
"In aggregated communities, we've seen anywhere from 20 [percent] to as high as over 40 percent discount off of the price that the incumbent is offering," Scott said.
That potential is why the question will be offered to Ameren customers in 15 Sangamon County municipalities and the unincorporated areas.
"Ameren will still send the bills to the customers," Jim Donelan of the Citizens' Efficiency Commission said. "The bill would have an additional line that would show the company that's providing the power. Ameren would still service the lines. If you have a problem, you still call Ameren. Those kind of things don't change."
Sangamon County's plan includes the ability to opt out at no charge to the individual customer.
"What that means is that the residents never--if this is pursued--never lose their ability to go back to Ameren," Donelan said. "Whether they think Ameren has a better rate, or they just decided that they want Ameren to be their electrical supplier, they still retain that right."
Voters living in certain parts of Sangamon County will see this issue on their ballot. To find out if you'll be voting on electrical aggregation, enter your information here to view a sample ballot.
There's a large amount of information about electrical aggregation available online. Some links:
Citizens' Efficiency Commission of Sangamon County proposal on municipal electrical aggregation
Ameren information on municipal electrical aggregation
Illinois Commerce Commission answers questions about municipal electrical aggregation (Microsoft Word Document)
Illinois Municipal Aggregation of Electric website