ComEd could be out as Plainfield’s power supplier if voters allow the village to negotiate electric rates on their behalf, a move that could trim electric bills by anywhere from 12 to 30 percent, village administrator Brian Murphy said Thursday.
The concept is called electrical aggregation, and the theory is municipalities or groups of municipalities that solicit bids for electricity on behalf of a large group should be able to secure rates lower than those charged by ComEd, Murphy said. If ComEd rates are the lowest, no change is made; he said.
“Frankly, I have not seen anything to give me trepidation about this plan,” Murphy said. “I haven’t see any groups come out in opposition to doing it (in other places where the system’s been implemented). There would be no disruption in service.”
The question will be on the March 20 election ballot, if the Board approves the referendum Monday.
Essentially, the measure asks voters to give the village “authority” to enter into negotiations with power companies, but it is not a mandate that they must do so, Murphy said. That decision remains with the board, he said.
Several towns in the Plainfield area – Joliet, Shorewood and Romeoville among them – are expected to seek approval for the same referendum in March. It’s possible they will band together with the Will County Governmental League to negotiate as one group in an effort to secure the best possible rate, Murphy said.
“It’s economy of scale,” he said. “Negotiating on behalf of 11,000 customers is not the same as negotiating for 150,000.”
Customers already have the ability to seek out cheaper electricity providers on their own, but many have not because they don’t fully understand how it works, fear making a mistake or don’t have the time to do the research needed, he said.
There will be no detrimental effect for someone who has already quit ComEd in favor of a different provider with a lower rate, Murphy said. If the village negotiates a better deal than that resident has, the resident will get the lower rate. If the resident’s rate is lower than what the village negotiates, they get to keep their lower rate.
Murphy said there have been instances in other parts of the country where a municipality was able to lower residents’ electric bills by as much as 30 percent. New Lenox and Crest Hill recently joined together to seek lower rates, and have seen a 25 percent savings, governmental league transportation director Hugh O'Hara told Romeoville Patch.
Murphy said he thinks it safe to say local residents will likely see their bills go down at least 12 and 14 percent, he said.
Regardless of who the power provider is, ComEd won't be completely removed from the equation. The company would still be responsible for transmitting electricity to custormers and for sending out bills, he said.
If the referendum is approved, the village on its own or in conjunction with the governmental league could seek bids from power companies almost immediately, Murphy said. It’s possible new, lower rates could be in place by summer, which traditionally is the time of year during which the most electricity is consumed.