Oak Park Takes the Lead: Opting to Purchase Electricity from Renewable Sources at a Lower Price

Submitted by Earl Lemberger

Oak Park is first municipality in Illinois to offer residents 100% renewable energy program

Oct. 18, the Oak Park Village Board approved a plan making Oak Park the first municipality in Illinois to offer its residents and small business owners the option to choose a 100% renewable energy program.   This move will provide energy certificates, or Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from green sources while saving customers 25% on the energy portion of their bill.  This will result in a projected savings to residents of about $4.5 million over the 2 year agreement with the supplier, Integrys Energy Services.

The current sources of Com Ed’s power were presented as 50% nuclear with the balance predominately coal and other non-renewables. While power will still be delivered to all residents by Com Ed, participating Oak Park residents and businesses will be purchasing power from Integrys which will be generated from 100% renewable sources, thus reducing the proportion of power supplied to the grid by conventional, non-renewable sources.

25% savings on energy portion of the bill will result in an average 15% reduction in overall electric bill

According to Village Manager, Tom Barwin's post on this topic on his blog, MissionMainStreet, "Based on an average bill of $100 per month, the 25% savings on the energy portion of the bill will result in an approximate 15% reduction in the average resident and small commercial business overall electricity bills over the next two years. All bills will continue to flow through ComEd."

What's Next?

The next steps described by Oak Park’s Sustainability Manager KC Poulos are as follows: “All residents and small business owners will be automatically enrolled in the program but can choose to opt-out and continue to be billed at the (higher) rate approved for Excelon (Com Ed). Residents and eligible businesses should look for a Village envelope in which there will be a letter explaining the aggregation program and the ability to opt-out if one chooses.  If residents do choose to opt out they’ll be asked to fill out a post card and drop it in the mail. Once the postcards are received, Village staff will update the customer list and send it to ComEd.  ComEd will send a letter confirming that the customer made this choice.  All this should take place before the end of the year.”

Beware of solicitations from electric supply companies

Finally, and very importantly, Poulos advised “there are retail electric supply companies soliciting Oak Park residents by mail and in person. People should be aware that only one company has a solicitor’s license for Oak Park – the rest are not legitimate. They should also be aware that the Village aggregation rate blows away what the retail suppliers can offer, so it’s best to disregard the mailings and door-to-door solicitations.”

A proposal to establish an Energy Efficiency Fund in the amount of $400,000 was initially included, in the Energy Aggregation proposal presented to the Village Trustees.  The Energy Efficiency fund was to be funded by taking a small percentage of the the first year's savings from the aggregation program to fund programs that would promote energy efficiency in the village.  The Energy Efficiency Fund not approved by the Board based on a concern that it could possibly be viewed as a “tax”. Instead, trustees suggested that any “green” projects be proposed by staff through the regular village budget process.

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