LANSING | Voters may get a chance in April to decide if they want to lower their utility bills through electricity aggregation, and Village President Norm Abbott said a delay to next year was a deliberate choice.
Chicago voters, along with voters in Calumet City and Chicago Heights, will decide the issue on Nov. 6.
Abbott said Tuesday he’d rather see Lansing vote on the issue in the April 9 municipal election because he doesn’t want the issue to compete for attention with the presidential election and other federal posts, including the re-election bid of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
“With the national elections coming up, they tend to dominate” attention, Abbott said. “Things can get missed.”
The Village Board will consider the referendum question on Sept. 18.
Abbott also said he thinks village officials are more likely to convince Lansing voters to support electricity aggregation if they spend the next few months explaining the concept to them.
“This gives us more time to get word of this out to people,” he said.
Abbott offered his support for the idea, which he said he believes could reduce residents' electricity bills by up to $300 per year. The Village Board heard a presentation on the concept from the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Cooperative, one of three companies authorized by the Illinois Commerce Commission to perform aggregation services on behalf of residential customers across Illinois.
Under aggregation, a company negotiates with electricity suppliers on behalf of all residents of a community. The large number of people in many cases allows for a bulk rate to be negotiated that results in individual customers paying less on their utility bills.
David Hoover, executive director of the cooperative, said his company represents 117 Illinois municipalities, including 73 Chicago-area communities and eight in the south suburbs, including South Holland and Park Forest.
He said residents in those communities have seen decreases of $150 to $350 per year in their utility bills.
But Hoover also pointed out there are provisions allowing local homeowners who don’t want to be a part of aggregation to opt out, even if a majority of local voters on April 9 approve the idea.
He also said if it turns out the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Cooperative or some other aggregator cannot negotiate a lower utility rate, there would be no commitment to proceed.
“If we can’t beat the ComEd rate, you (Lansing village officials) won’t go forward,” Hoover said.