DANVILLE — Vermilion County officials have decided that fighting the Illinois Power Agency over electric aggregation will not be productive, so the county and Integrys are moving forward with an "opt-out" program in unincorporated areas and a voluntary program in incorporated areas.
"What we have to look at is changing the law in the future," said Bill Donahue, attorney for Vermilion County.
The language in the statute has become an issue locally, because Vermilion County and Integrys Energy Services were trying to do a countywide opt-out electric aggregation program that would include all villages and cities. But the independent state agency, according to county officials, decided that the statute allows the county to do an opt-out program in unincorporated areas only.
Many local towns were able to vote in November on municipal electric aggregation. Virtually every such ballot move was approved, and electric rates have been lower for users throughout East Central Illinois.
Voters must approve by referendum an opt-out program, and Vermilion County put that on the ballot in November, but the interpretation is that the referendum does not authorize an opt-out program in villages and cities, only in unincorporated areas.
Voter consent is required, because in an opt-out program, electric customers would automatically be enrolled in the program and would have to opt-out if they didn't want to be involved. In an opt-in program, customers voluntarily sign up.
Vermilion County is now moving ahead with the opt-out program only in the unincorporated areas of the county, with the Integrys rate of 4.26 cents per kilowatt hour. But, Integrys, the private company the county hired to implement electric aggregation, has decided to go ahead and offer that same rate and terms to customers in incorporated areas, such as Danville, through an opt-in, or voluntary, program.
Donahue said the county regrets the power agency's decision, but wants to forge ahead now and let customers know that the same rate is being offered to residential and small-business customers throughout the county. The only difference is that customers in the villages and cities must voluntarily sign up to get the rate of 4.26 cents through June 2014.
Residential customers will save 20 percent to 22 percent compared with Ameren's standard rate, and small businesses will save as much as 31 percent, according to county officials.
Donahue said the county plans to get all the mayors in Vermilion County together and see if they want to pursue getting their own referendums on the April ballot. He said the county and Integrys will assist them in that process. If the referendums are successful, then Integrys can offer an opt-out program in those municipalities.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer has already told aldermen that city administration will be pulling together information about electric aggregation and ensuring there's a referendum on the April ballot for Danville. But, the city won't decide yet whether it will work with the county's program, if the referendum is successful, or entertain bids for its own electric aggregation supplier.
Eisenhauer said the city will be considering all options to make sure the city gets the best deal for its electric users.
Vermilion County electric aggregation
Integrys and Vermilion County are offering an electric aggregation program with a rate of 4.26 cents per kilowatt hour for residential and small business customers through June 2014. There is a cancellation fee if a customer signs up and decides to leave the program before June 2014.
All eligible residents who live outside village and city limits in Vermilion County will automatically be enrolled unless they take action to opt out. Notices will arrive in the mail around Dec. 27, explaining how to opt out. To participate, do nothing. To opt out, call the number provided, go to the website provided or return the postcard included with the opt-out notice.
Nobody living in a city or village will be automatically enrolled, so to sign up, call the toll-free number, 855-628-5494.