DANVILLE — Most likely, electric aggregation will again be on the ballot this year for voters who live in the city.
As Vermilion County's opt-out electric aggregation program is ramping up in the unincorporated areas of the county, Danville city officials are pursuing a separate program for electric customers within the city only.
The first step is authorizing a referendum for April that will ask voters in the city if they want an electric aggregation program. Aldermen on the city's public works committee will vote Tuesday on whether to authorize a referendum in April on electric aggregation. The public works committee meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 8) in the municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville. The resolution would move on to the full city council next week.
Municipalities must, by law, get voter approval to offer an opt-out program in which residents are automatically enrolled but can opt-out if they want.
In the November election, city voters were asked the same question on that ballot, and the majority said yes to electric aggregation. But that was for the county's electric aggregation program administered through Integrys and was not an opt-out program for the incorporated areas like Danville. County officials hoped it could be an opt-out program in the cities and villages in the county, but the Illinois Power Agency ruled that the program could be opt-out only in unincorporated areas.
So, Ameren electric customers, both residential and small commercial, are being automatically enrolled in the Integrys program right now, and those customers have until Thursday to opt-out if they don't want the Integrys rate of 4.26 cents per kilowatt hour, which is lower than Ameren's standard rate.
But Integrys is also voluntarily offering the same rate to Ameren customers in the incorporated areas of the county, including Danville, but as an opt-in program, meaning those customers won't be automatically enrolled and must voluntarily sign up for the program.
Danville city officials are pursuing their own electric aggregation referendum with the intent of offering a program that would automatically enroll all eligible Ameren electric customers in the city.
The city hadn't done this earlier, because city officials also believed that the county's opt-out program would cover the incorporated areas.
Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said the city has been researching and interviewing electric aggregation consultants, who would promote a city electric aggregation referendum, and if voters give their approval, administer the city's program later this year, including seeking bids for an electric rate.
Eisenhauer said hiring a consultant is the direction he favors, because it gives all electric suppliers an opportunity to bid on the city's service, and in doing so, gives the city the opportunity to get the best rate. The city doesn't have to hire a consultant, but Eisenhauer said there's a lot to this, including writing a plan of operation and governance, which city officials have never done.
"Those are aspects of the (law) that I am not comfortable with this first time through," Eisenhauer said in explaining why the city wants to hire a consultant. He has talked to several consultants so far, he said, and interviewed two. He anticipates recommending the hiring of a consultant at a February council meeting.
A consultant would be paid, Eisenhauer said, a certain per-kilowatt fee by the electric supplier once the program is running. He said the city can cap that fee at 0.00075 cent per kilowatt hour.
The city can also tack on a per-kilowatt-hour fee that would generate some revenue. The county included a fee in its program, but Eisenhauer said he undecided at this time whether he wants the city to collect a fee or not.
Eisenhauer said that is one of several decisions that can be made later, but the most pressing issue at this point is to make sure the city gets an electric aggregation question on the April ballot for voters in Danville.
"That has an immediate deadline," he said.