Evanston city officials say preliminary pricing figures for purchasing power under the new electric aggregation referendum approved by voters last week bring savings of close to $25 a month for the average residential customer.

And, they say, going with 100 percent renewable energy as the source, instead of the 6 percent renewable level required by state law, would only shave about $1 a month from the savings.

However the staff report cautions that electricity pricing is volatile and because of potential changes the state’s definition of small commercial customers that can be included in the city program the pool of eligible businesses may shrink, which could result in substantially higher prices when the final bids are received.

The average residential customer in the city now pays ComEd an average of $58 a month for electricty, plus additional fees for delivering the power to the home and taxes. The average customer uses about 750 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.

The City Council this evening is scheduled to approve a plan to go ahead with implementing the electric aggregation program.

If the council votes to approve the plan tonight the city will hold public hearings early next month and then seek binding bids from the alternative suppliers later in April. If the process from there moves forward as expected, Evanstonians could start receive power at the newly negotiated rates by July.

Related document

Electric aggregation staff memo (.pdf)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Beware of snake oil salesmen

    Anyone who promises 100% renewable energy—-well run don't walk away from.

    We are many many years [if ever] away from 100% or even close renewable.

    Wind and solar are renewable but the materials to create receivers and transmitters are not—-look at rare earths for windmills require destroying vast land areas. Besides they are and probably will be inefficient.

    Plant sources—not even close—and look at effect on food and land prices.

    1. Snake Oil Salesmen?

      We are many, many years [if ever] away from 100% or even close renewable."

      "… Wind and solar are renewable but the materials to create receivers and transmitters are not—-look at rare earths for windmills require destroying vast land areas. Besides they are and probably will be inefficient.”

      Unless of course we are willing to do the myriad calculations for and/by deconstructing all of the materials and energy used in producing the source materials necessary to deliver the plant online (and then the energy)… For renewable energy, the input is wind (or solar) and the output is clean electricity… it is here and it’s here now! (we should "reserve and purchase those electrons" to power the homes and small businesses in Evanston because it's the right thing to do)

      The alternative is to scrape off mountaintops, destroying natural habitats and clean water resources for the fossil fuels in and on the mountain (my example here is coal – I'll reserve the hazards of fracking for another discussion…) that are chock full of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and mercury (to name just a few)… Then ship it sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles to a plant… Burn it in the atmosphere and then say it is “cheap, cost efficient energy”?

      That is ludicrous… I am sorry my fine Anonymous fellow – that is not a good deal for anybody who is living and breathing on this planet… Perhaps the same basic kind of materials built the hardware for the plant that also builds the towers and the turbines…  But the end result isn’t killing this planet by belching millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide and other toxic gasses into our biosphere.

      Choosing 100% renewable energy is a no brainer… that is if we care about the future of this planet and its future inhabitants.

      Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

  2. Save money and go green

    "…going with 100 percent renewable energy… would only shave about $1 a month from the savings."

    Here's what you get that dollar:

    • C02 emissions reduction of 284,000 metric tons, equivalent to removing 56,000 cars from the road
    • Reduced acid rain emissions (NOx, SOx)
    • Redcued mercury emissions
    • Reduced articulate emssions

    The average single family home can use save well over $250 a year AND use 100% renewable energy.

    Save money AND go green–this one is a no brainer!

    Jonathan Nieuwsma

    Citizens' Greener Evanston

  3. Estimated drop in average electrical bills

    I would assume that this potential drop in rates will only apply to those who chose to ignore all of the mailings and calls that rained in upon us last summer from all of the alternative providers of electrical power.

    Anyone who went to various web sites, such as that of CUB (see below), could have made comparisons and taken advantage long before this refeerndum and, most certainly, long before the City finally works out all the details and negotiates their deal. 

    I believe, by the way, that those who already opted for alternative suppliers, can stay with them, especially if that turns out to be a better price or package than the one Evanston eventually chooses for the entire City.  In our case the deal was good in that you not only got a lower rate, but also rebates every three months based on usage and a signing bonus of more money.


  4. No brainer?

    Great article in Crain's today concerning this issue.  Certainly not a "no brainer" from what I am reading and from personal past experience. 

    Having contracted with several "alternate" energy suppliers for my business over the years, both gas and electric, there is nothing "no brainer" about this issue whatsoever.  Nothing cut and dried about it, lots of nuance, and lots of issues if you try to change, market pricing changes, or the cost and hurdles to opt out. 

    Hopefully the city will take great care in negotiations here, and green energy should only be a minor concern.  Much more important are pricing, length of contract, ability to exit, etc. etc etc.

    While it's certainly possible to save money, especially very short term, it's not difficult to actually end up paying more for power than the market.  Beware anyone who tells you this is a no brainer.  Your $1 savings can easily turn into an overpayment through open market pricing forces.


  5. Times they are a changing…

    We have to move past the false arguement that renewable energy is somehow harmful.  The status quo of coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear have tremendous environmental damage consequences.  Everything has some impact of course, but the differences between nonrenewable 'conventional' power and renewable power are huge.  By definition, nonrewables are a finite source.

    I find it interesting that places that already have large amounts of renewable energy continue to embrace it and want to expand its us, while America seems to have lost it ability to tackle challenges.  It is time to move away from harmful 'conventional' power supplies.

  6. It seems like a no-brainer to me

    Here's how I see the no-brainer part:

    If you have a good arrangement already, then you can opt out. Easy.

    If you don't like the proposed arrangement, you don’t have to be in it. You just opt out. Easy.

    If you think that the methodology for including renewable power is a hoax, just opt out.

    If you don't want the bother of learning a few facts or think this isn't worth your time, you can opt out. Still easy.

    If you think you're selling your soul to an evil greater than global climate change with this opportunity, perhaps you should opt out.

    The concept of shopping for electric energy while including renewable energy is not a very new concept or unique. All this aggregation program allows for is to enable us to make similar choices that thousands of electric consumers (WAY bigger than you and I) have already been making for years. As a large buying group, now we can too. That's the new part.

    Opting out is easy. Staying in is even easier. What could be simpler?

    1. OPT OUT

      Can the city opt out EASY, when the price of renewable energy goes up 40 – 60 percent when the federal government ends the subsidies that are keeping the renewable energy companies afloat?

  7. 100% Blowing in the wind


    100% renewable is a great idea, but as an engineer I am sad to say we are not there yet. We want 100% renewable AND 100% available. The wind does not blow all the time nor does the sun shine all the time. Where is that back up power going to come from? Batteries? China has a strangle hold on rare earths and minerals needed for batteries, as well as generators in wind turbines. That back up power has to come from fossil fuels or nuclear.

    100% is not realistic. Some percentage is. That percentage should factor into account that money is also a scarce resource. After all, we have to pay for it. Last I heard, money is not renewable…


    1. The wind is blowing

      Hello Vito,

      I am not sure if you are suggesting that we just do nothing… because "it's not there yet". 

      But in my humble opinion, we, as a society have to start somewhere and I think that the citizens of Evanston are socially responsible enough to forgo a penny or two while in the process of dramatically lowering their collective energy bills to encourage the use and development of Renewable Energy. 

      Yes, the wind isn't always blowing in Illinois, but it might be in Wisconsin or Indiana (just as the sun isn't always shining here – but it might be somewhere else – and harnessing it is good for the planet!). 

      Certainly in the transition from fossil fuels to newer and cleaner sources will require back-up energy sources and other new strategies to keep the energy we receive seamless… I will concede that the transition will not happen overnight… we are taking baby steps – not a leap of faith.

      It is my hope that America can embrace and develop them and start moving toward energy independence.

      Yours sincerely, Brian G. Becharas

      1. Re Blowing in the wind

        I am not against renewable energy, just let us be rational. It is not there yet. We will have fossil fuels or nuclear as a backup for quite awhile. Cost is still a problem, but that does not mean we should do further research until we have practical methods. Volt or Solyndra anyone? Let us not forget that China is the primary source for rare earths and minerals used.

        As for the city efforts, the devil is in the details. The contract should be vetted so that a large cost increase would allow us to cancel the contract without penalty. History has not been kind to city contracts.

  8. Real costs of energy

    If you want to get an idea about the REAL costs, read 'Powering the Future

    How We Will (eventually) Solve the Energy Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of Tomorrow' Laughlin, Robert B. which examines all the proposed energy sources.


    'Nuclear Energy' What Everyone Needs to Know' Ferguson, Charles D. [this is not a pro/con but a realistic look at what it is and is not and how/when feasible.

    1. Real Cost of Energy …

      Thanks for this…  I just ordered it!

      "Even the most unreconstructed fossil fuel apologists will admit that in 200 years, oil and coal will probably be found mainly in museum exhibits. How those museums will keep the lights on is still anyone's guess, but physicist Robert B. Laughlin is optimistic that humanity will have plenty of options by the time the last drop of petroleum is gone."

      Now where is the "Like" button on EvanstonNow?   =;D  Brian G. Becharas

      here is the link for interested parties


    2. Don’t write-off nuclear

      Ferguson's book is very good in laying out the pro/con of nuclear and does discuss 4th generation plants, he does not go into what seems, to me, the most promising features.

      There is an excellent article by William Hannum 'Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste' in Scientific American Dec. 2005.  Pyrometalic fast burn [even better with thorium] will greatly reduce the amount of waste, half-life and prevention of waste being used for weapons.  Well worth reading.  Unfortunally I've not seen a [semi-] popluar analysis of this technology though Ferguson does a very good and readable coverage of the general generation technology and other aspects of nuclear—fussion and fission.

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