Woodridge residents and small business owners could see lower electricity bills next year if the village switches energy suppliers.
A state law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2010, their residents into one negotiating body with the goal of getting a bulk discount. ComEd currently supplies Woodridge’s electricity.
The benefits to switching are cost savings for residents and small businesses. The downside is a labor-intensive process for village staff and confusion for residents. Plus, benefits may only last until 2013, when Illinois’ contract with ComEd will expire.
Four of five village trustees approved moving forward with some sort of opt-out electricity aggregation program Thursday. Trustee David Pittinger was absent.
In the opt-out program, all residents and small business owners would be automatically switched to a new energy provider unless they took action to be excluded.
Trustee Greg Abbott was the only village board member to vote against pursuing electricity aggregation, saying the uncertainty and confusion wouldn’t be worth the short-term savings.
The 15 Illinois municipalities that have pursued aggregation have seen an initial savings of $175 a year per household, according to Village Administrator Kathleen Rush. Small businesses could save about $500 to $600 a year, she said.
A recent effort by Oak Brook, Grayslake and Lincolnwood will save households about $235 a year, Rush said.
The barriers to switching are the many steps for the village in accordance with the law, including passing a referendum, drafting an ordinance and plan of operation, holding two public hearings and otherwise educating the public.
There’s also the question of whether the short-term benefits would be worth the effort.
Once ComEd’s contract with Illinois expires in 2013, it is expected electricity costs will be reduced when the Illinois Power Authority goes out to bid for its next energy supplier.
To recoup savings and reduce workload in the meantime, municipalities have at times teamed up with one another to share resources. Downers Grove has approached Woodridge with interest to do so, Rush said, and Bolingbrook and Willowbrook are other options.
But the village board favored another less time-intensive option: to authorize the Will County Governmental League to act on its behalf.
The WCGL will pursue a one-year switch for municipalities who submit a letter of intent and will handle much of the grunt work the state requires.
Trustees Abbott, Joseph Kagann, Anne Banks and Mayor William F. Murphy voiced support of the WCGL approach. Kagann said it seemed to be the more “shovel-ready” of the two options and voiced concern whether starting from scratch with a partnering municipality would delay Woodridge’s ability to recoup savings.
Trustees Pamela Beavers and Gina Cunningham-Picek voiced support of working with another municipality for more flexibility and including green energy options. The WCGL plan includes no green energy options.
Trustee David Pittinger was absent from the meeting.
Once the year passes, Woodridge will have the option to continue with the WCGL if the option is available or join another municipality. Kagann said he favored going with WCGL as Woodridge learned more about the process. The village could then work with another municipality after it became more comfortable, he said.
Woodridge is approaching electricity aggregation later than one of its neighbors.
Darien, along with 20 other Illinois municipalities, passed a referendum regarding aggregation in April. Darien's referendum failed, the only one of the 16 proposed in the Chicago area to do so.
The 2011 referendum failed 51.39 percent to 48.61.