DANVILLE — What a difference a year can make.
This time last year, Urbana signed an electric aggregation contract with Homefield Energy to supply 100 percent renewable electricity to residents at a rate of 4.08 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Following the same bidding process and using the same consultant, the city of Danville ended up Wednesday with a higher rate for its electric aggregation program. The low bid Wednesday came from Homefield Energy again but at a rate of 4.33 cents per kilowatt-hour for a 22-month period from traditional power sources, according to Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer.
That's not only higher than the Homefield Energy rate Urbana got last year, but higher than the rate Champaign received through a competitive bidding process one year ago — 4.15 from Integrys Energy Services — and higher than the 4.26-cent rate Vermilion County got from Integrys last fall in a non-bidding process.
Although higher than the other rates, the Danville rate is still lower than the standard electricity rate Ameren charges, which is 5.10 cents per kilowatt hour, said Eisenhauer, who was present for Wednesday's bidding process in which three alternative electric suppliers submitted bids to supply more than 100,000 households in municipalities across the state, including Danville. Eisenhauer said the rate still represents a savings of 10 percent to 15 percent on the electric portion of an average household's Ameren power bill.
But city officials were hoping for a lower rate.
"I was disappointed that the rate wasn't lower," Eisenhauer said.
Danville and other municipalities in Vermilion County are just now seeking bids for their own electric aggregation programs, partly because local officials thought the program that Vermilion County government was organizing last year could serve Ameren electric customers in incorporated areas. But the Illinois Power Agency ruled that the county's automatic enrollment program would be valid only in unincorporated areas and that it could only offer a voluntary program in incorporated areas, like Danville. That meant residents in cities and villages would have to voluntarily join, and such opt-in programs don't have as high a participation rate as the opt-out programs that automatically enroll all eligible residents.
So last fall municipalities in Vermilion County, like Danville, began taking steps to get voter approval in an April referendum to offer their own opt-in electric aggregation programs.
Danville city voters approved the measure, and the city chose Good Energy as its consultant to handle the bidding process.
But the electric market has changed in the last year.
Eisenhauer said in doing research before Wednesday's bid meeting to determine what length of contract to take, it's obvious that prices on the electric market are increasing. But one advantage of the agreement with Homefield is a match guarantee, meaning that if Ameren lowers its standard rate this summer below Homefield's rate, Homefield will match Ameren's rate, Eisenhauer said.
Once Danville signs a contract with Homefield Energy, eligible Ameren customers in Danville will automatically be enrolled in the electric aggregation program but will be notified about how to opt out. First, Eisenhauer said, Homefield will send letters to residents explaining the program and the options, and they should see the savings in the July billing cycle, Eisenhauer said. Residents already signed up with another alternative electric supplier will not be eligible for the city program with Homefield Energy.
And Danville residents who voluntarily signed up for the county's program with Integrys can remain in that program and continue to receive that lower rate. They are not required to be in the city program and shouldn't be automatically enrolled in the city's program with Homefield Energy.