I just watched a video in which Dennis Schmidt and others described the upcoming opportunity to vote to implement a Muni Electrical Aggregation program for Champaign. This may be a great thing. However, the video raised several questions in my mind. First of all, it appears to promise a "free ride"; join the program and your supply price goes down, no caveats, no issues. My whole life, I've noted there are no free lunches so I guess I need to understand why this case is so different. If aggregation causes the price to decrease, then markets would force the other Ameren suppliers to match the price or they would not be able to sell any power. The only thing that I can see that could reduce the impact of market forces are government interventions. In the video, reference was made to a "current default rate" which leads me to believe that the current default rate may be something already impacted by state government (perhaps ICC [or some other agency] sets the rate). How will we assure market forces will not be impacted by City government influences if the aggregation plan is unknown at this time?
The video says if the referendum is approved, the City will, with public input, create an aggregation plan that includes procedures and goals for the program. This seems to be the 900 lb elephant in the room. It seems impossible to me that the City is so altruistic and its employees have so much time on their hands that no new employees would be required, the cost of which would have to be in some manner borne by the program. Also, unless the plan specifically excluded it, it would not be a surprise to me to find that fees would be established for certain actions (such as opting in after originally opting out or vice versa). Also, it would be no surprise to find that my Ameren bill would incorporate some new charges. Currently my electric bill shows only one local charge, a "Champaign Municipal Charge" ( the local tax) but my local phone bill has the local tax plus an additional 911 fee and my water bill has the local tax and a Champaign franchise fee, a Champaign fire protection fee, and an incomprehensible QIP surcharge. I guess you can call me jaded but I've never seen any government miss an opportunity to increase its revenues when a new opportunity ensues. When I ask myself, "What's in it for the city to set this up for us poor rate payers", unfortunately, I conclude that the answer is new revenue opportunity. (I can think of several new fee opportunities the aggregation program might spin off but I won't state them because maybe they might strike someone as great ideas.)
Although the Champaign video makes a point that the goal of the aggregation is cost savings to the customer, there is a light reference to forcing suppliers to use cleaner energy sources. A similar Urbana video makes it clear that forcing clean energy sourcing would be a significant objective of an Urbana aggregation program. If this becomes a major feature of an aggregation program, then the opportunity to reduce end user costs decrease sharply.
One thing that must be addressed, although understandably never discussed, is potential for corruption. Unfortunately, this state has a well deserved reputation for corruption at all government levels. The ability to negotiate rates with multiple suppliers for huge energy volumes posses a huge opportunity for fraud. Strong checks and balances would have to be in place to protect the City and its citizens from potential abuse.
My major question is this: How can we vote on Electrical Aggregation plan if we don't have the slightest idea what the framework, structure, or even objectives of the aggregation plan would be? My second question is this: Can I be on the committee that develops the aggregation plan?