DANVILLE — Vermilion County officials signed a contract Wednesday with Integrys Energy Services that immediately offers savings on electricity to all Ameren customers in the county through a voluntary program.
Integrys officials announced Wednesday that the company has negotiated with county officials to offer a rate of 4.49 cents per kilowatt hour for residential Ameren customers in Vermilion, which represents a savings of about 26 percent to 27 percent over Ameren's utility-approved rate of 6.13-6.18 cents per kilowatt hour. Integrys also is offering a lower rate to Ameren commercial customers in the small-business rate class. Those customers can sign up with Integrys at a rate of 5.05 per kilowatt hour, a savings of about 30 percent over Ameren's rate of 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour.
Customers must call a toll-free number or go to the Integrys website to sign up for this voluntary program that will precede an opt-out program that will be offered this fall if voters approve it.
Earlier this month, the Vermilion County Board approved entering into this initial agreement with Integrys for a voluntary electric program rather than seeking bids from Integrys and other companies also offering electricity savings through electric aggregation — pooling customers into groups to negotiate bulk rates on their behalf.
Since deregulation in Illinois, residents have the ability to sign up individually with an alternative electric supplier of their choosing. In 2010, the Illinois Legislature gave local governments, including counties and municipalities, the ability to contract with an electric supplier that pools residents and small commercial customers and negotiates a bulk rate. But voters must give their approval in a referendum before an electric supplier can contract with a municipality or county.
The cities of Champaign and Urbana both got voter approval in referendums this past spring and then sought bids from electric suppliers. But some local governments in the state, including Vermilion County, have decided to go a different route and contract with a supplier prior to the referendum. The trade-off is the electric supplier, in this case, Integrys, agrees to provide immediate savings to customers through an initial voluntary program and also agrees to help the county promote the referendum this fall.
If successful, then Integrys will pursue an electric aggregation program after the referendum in which Integrys negotiates a new rate on behalf of all eligible Vermilion County Ameren customers. That program would not be voluntary but would be an opt-out program. Every eligible Ameren customer would automatically be included in the program but would be notified about how to opt out of the program. If the new rate is less than the rate being offered now through the voluntary program, those who sign up this summer will get the lower rate, according to Integrys officials.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said residents will be happy with this rate, but it's not an automatic, so if they can find a better rate, then fine. In regard to criticism over not seeking bids, McMahon said that he is happy that the county is getting a rate now that is very close to the rate that other communities, like Champaign and Urbana, received through the bidding process. Integrys won Champaign's bid with a price of 4.15 cents per kilowatt hour, and Homefield Energy won Urbana's with a rate of 4.08 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Integrys officials said the 4.49 cents per kilowatt hour they're offering now in Vermilion is less than the rate that their competitors are offering Ameren customers in Vermilion County now. Most of those rates are over 5 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Bob Hedrich with Integrys.
Although many electric suppliers have been courting residential Ameren customers in the county, Hedrich said, most commercial customers in the small-business rate category have not been getting offers for savings as residential customers and large commercial customers have been since deregulation. But through this voluntary program, Integrys is also including them, which could be a significant savings to small businesses in Danville and elsewhere in the county.
In the next week, Integrys and the county will be sending out letters to all Ameren customers eligible for this voluntary program. The letter will tell them about the program and how to sign up. For those who sign up, nothing will change about their electric service except the price and supplier. The monthly bill will still come from Ameren, which will continue to deliver the electricity and be responsible for maintaining the delivery system.
To sign up
For more information about, or to sign up for, the voluntary electric savings program offered by Integrys Energy Services in coordination with Vermilion County, go to http://www.integrysenergy.com/il-vermilioncounty  or call 855-628-5494.