19 Aug 2014
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Palos Hills Considering New Residential Energy Provider

Although an energy consulting firm canceled its presentation on Thursday, the city council discussed the possibility of joining a consortium to find cheaper electrical energy.

Palos Hills Considering New Residential Energy Provider

The Palos Hills City Council is again looking to switch energy suppliers, this time on behalf of its residents.

In May, , thereby saving an estimated 25 percent—or $22,000, a year—on the cost of powering many of its buildings, including the municipal golf course.

Recent legislation allows the city to go into the energy market through an independent broker and collect bids from energy suppliers for residential power. Palos Hills Mayor Gerlad Bennett, who heads the Southwest Conference of Mayors, presented a list of several dozen neighboring communities that have allegedly expressed interest in the idea, including Tinley Park and Orland Park.

ComEd, which goes out to bid every month and does not have to reveal where it buys energy, would remain the city’s electricity distributor, Bennett said. But by purchasing residential energy in bulk and locking it in for a couple of years, the potential to save money is high, he added.

Because ComEd is currently in the energy market place, “they’re going to get a power source that’s going to make them money,” Bennet said, whereas if the city goes directly to the energy company, the electricity comes “directly from the power source, to the resident, through the ComEd lines.” In other words, residents would continue to use their local energy lines and receive a single bill.

“ComEd can’t make any money on that,” Bennett said.

Permission would need to be obtained from the public, via referendum, before the city could shop around. And even then, individual households would still maintain the right to keep their current service.

Alderman Mary Ann Schultz, of the 5th Ward, said she was skeptical about the prospect based on prior experience with a natural gas company that promised cheaper rates and instead ended up costing an additional 20-25 cents per therm.

Her fellow 5th Ward alderman, Frank Williams, said he didn’t care for the idea either but would let Palos Hills citizens decide whether or not to participate. Explaining himself further, he said he was skeptical that ComEd would allow an energy provider to use ComEd power lines for long—and free of charge—without petitioning the Illinois Commerce Commission for a rate hike.

Nevertheless, both Schultz and Williams said they would go into an upcoming presentation from energy consultants Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative (NIMEC) with an open mind.

Representatives from NIMEC cancelled a presentation set for Thursday’s Committee of the Whole Meeting. Bennett said he would speak with them as soon as possible about rescheduling within the next two to three weeks.

If the city council likes what it hears, the issue would come before the public on next spring’s ballot.

NIMEC reportedly has told other municipalities that it can save residents up to $200 a year on their electric bills.

You can compare energy costs yourself at www.pluginillinois.org

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