CHAMPAIGN — Most Champaign residents will see an electric rate increase on their July bills — Urbana residents will not.
Anyone enrolled in Champaign's municipal electric aggregation program — which is mostly everyone — will see a 3.9 percent increase on their July bills. Integrys Energy Services generates electricity for most of Champaign and will pass on to residents the cost of increased tariffs imposed by regulating agencies.
Homefield Energy, which is Urbana's retail electric supplier, will not pass on the cost of those tariffs. That means Champaign residents will be paying 4.315 cents per kilowatt hour for their electricity while Urbana residents pay 4.055 cents.
Both rates are still lower than Ameren Illinois' default price of 4.68 cents, which is what residents would otherwise be paying if the municipal electric aggregation program did not exist. Ameren Illinois' default price has come down considerably — more than 24 percent — since the program started last year.
Champaign officials estimate that customers in the city have saved, as a whole, $1.6 million in electricity costs since the program began last summer. Through March of this year, Urbana residents had saved $1.12 million in the first nine months of the program.
Municipal electric aggregation, which was approved by voters during a March 2012 referendum, authorizes cities to act as a broker for its residents' power rates. Both cities contracted with alternative electric suppliers at lower prices and gave residents the opportunity to opt out of the program.
The vast majority of residents chose not to opt out, and were signed up for the municipal electric aggregation program. Their electric bills still come from Ameren Illinois, which is responsible for delivering the energy, but the company that actually generates the power is different.
Urbana chief of staff Mike Monson said the city has been "really pleased" with Homefield Energy as an alternative electric supplier. He said the supplier could have passed on the increased cost of tariffs from regulators, but chose not to.
He said, however, that residents have still been dealing with phone calls and visits from competing electric suppliers distributing misleading information. Companies like Liberty Power and Direct Energy quote a price for residents lower than Ameren Illinois' default rate, but higher than the cities' aggregated rates, which are what residents actually pay.
Monson said that Liberty Power had been so aggressive in its sales pitches that the city filed a complaint with the Illinois Commerce Commission.
"It's a little bit of a wild west out there," Monson said. "We occasionally get some aggressive things."