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The Ins and Outs of Electric Aggregation

A quick Q&A about the electric aggregation referendum, which Hinsdale voters will see on their ballots on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s primary election isn’t all about political candidates. Voters in Hinsdale will also see a referendum on electric aggregation nestled at the bottom of their ballots. It’s somewhat complicated, but we conducted a quick Q&A session with ourselves to help explain it.

Q:  Electric aggre-what now? What is this?

A: Basically, voters will decide whether village leaders can negotiate for cheaper electric rates for homes and small businesses. A state law that took effect in January makes this possible, and Hinsdale wants to take advantage of it. If the referendum passes, every home in the village, and every business in the 0-100kW range will be included.

Q: Cheaper electric rates? I like that. How does it work?

A: Strength in numbers. Hinsdale as an entity has more bargaining power with the electric companies than we do. And Hinsdale plans to work with the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative, a group of 140 government entities, for even more bargaining power.

So together, these governments will look for the cheapest electric rate, and sign a one-year deal. They can always choose to go with ComEd, if they’re the cheapest, but if they find a better price from another company (like Constellation or BlueStar), they’ll go with that. NIMEC says they’ll find the cheapest electricity cost available.

Q: Oh man, leave ComEd? I don’t know about that. Aren’t they mad about this?

A: Quite frankly, ComEd doesn’t care very much. Since 2003, they’ve been an energy delivery company only – the power they bring to Hinsdale homes is generated by their parent company, Exelon.

No matter which electricity company NIMEC goes with, ComEd will still deliver that power to your house or business, and you’ll still get a ComEd bill every month. And you’ll still call ComEd if you have a power problem. In fact, the only change you should see is a different rate on your ComEd bill.

Q: I’m still a little nervous about that. Can I opt out and stay with ComEd and Exelon?

A: Yep. If the referendum passes, everyone in Hinsdale will automatically be opted in, but if you want to take a pass and stay with the rate you’re paying, you can do that. You’ll get a couple letters in the mail, one from ComEd and one from NIMEC. Fill out the form or call the number, and you’ll be opted out.

Q: What if I’ve already switched to another electric company?

A: If you already have a contract with a company that isn’t ComEd, you won’t be included in the program. You may be able to join in later, but you might have to pay a termination fee to get out of your other contract.

Q: Has this been tried here before?

A: Nineteen local municipalities passed a similar referendum last April, and 14 of those are working with NIMEC. North Aurora, as an example, ended up negotiating a rate of 5.75 cents per kilowatt-hour, cheaper than ComEd’s current rate of 7.76 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Q: So what is this question going to look like on the ballot?

A: Like this: "Shall the Village of Hinsdale have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program?"

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