Agreement being drafted to unite gov'ts seeking cheap electricity

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board will vote this month on an intergovernmental agreement to unite 13 local governments seeking to get lower electric rates for constituents.

The agreement under construction would create the tentatively named Northern Illinois Electric Aggregation Consortium among most of the governments asking voters next month for permission to shop around for cheaper electricity rates on their behalf.

The County Board will vote on the agreement at its Feb. 21 meeting, County Administrator Peter Austin said. The Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee that discussed the agreement Thursday will hold a special meeting an hour prior to review the final wording and make a recommendation.

Once the county approves the agreement, it will go to the 12 municipal governments that have joined to lower residents’ electric rates, provided their voters approve the idea in the March 20 primary.

“We have a dozen governments waiting for us to move on this,” Austin told the committee.

Deregulation allows municipal and county governments, with voters’ permission, to bundle residential and small business customers together in order to shop competitively for cheaper electricity. As more and more governments late last year put the issue on their respective March ballots, the idea came to bundle every government whose voters approve aggregation into an even bigger pool, and likely even cheaper rates.

All 13 governments will use Aurora, Ohio-based Independent Energy Consultants as its agent to pursue aggregation. The County Board last month voted, 16-7, to choose the firm, which will be paid by whatever electric supply company gets customers’ business.

The municipal governments joining the consortium are Algonquin, Lakewood, Marengo, Lake in the Hills, Spring Grove, Woodstock, McHenry, Huntley, McCullom Lake, Johnsburg, Ringwood and Genoa, which is in DeKalb County. The municipalities represent more than 165,000 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

McHenry County will represent the county’s 70,000 or so unincorporated residents. While voters in Crystal Lake and Prairie Grove also will be voting next month on aggregation, their governments are not joining the consortium.

Austin told the committee that the proposed agreement will forbid members from collecting an annual payment from whatever power supplier the consortium picks. The idea of getting an annual contribution, similar to what the county receives from its cable franchise agreement, turned off some County Board members.

“It was absolutely clear that the municipalities did not want to go down that road,” Austin said.

Customers have the ability to opt out should their communities approve aggregation, and stay with their current power provider.

Voters in Harvard and Fox River Grove approved aggregation in April.

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