Evanston aldermen voted Tuesday to put a referendum on the March ballot asking voters to let the city negotiate electric rates on their behalf.

The concept, authorized under a 2009 state law, is called municipal electrical aggregation.

Evanston’s sustainability coordinator, Catherine Hurley, says 19 Chicago suburbs have already adopted the concept, saving their residents about 25 percent on electric power charges.

She said she expects another 100 to 130 will adopt the program next year.

Fourteen different power suppliers are authorized to do business in the state, and if voters approve, the city would seek competitive bids from them, and select one to be the default supplier of power to city residents.

The cost of power amounts to about 60 percent of the total electric bill, Hurley said, with the other 40 percent coming from power delivery service, which, along with billing, would continue to be provided by ComEd.

Hurley said the only organized opposition to the concept appears to come from companies that market to individual consumers to change their power supplier to one of several that they represent.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the city has opted not to join a proposed consortium of other North Shore communities looking to negotiate a common deal with power suppliers — because the city has staff in-house that’s more knowledgeable on the subject than the organizers of the consortium.

Several community environmental activists spoke in favor of the referendum and also urged that the city negotiate for so-called “green” energy from solar or other environmentally friendly sources if voters approve the referendum.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, asked whether getting green energy would cost Evanston consumers more.

Hurley didn’t directly answer that question, but said the cost would likely depend on a variety of factors. She added that so far Oak Park is the only community in the state that has opted to purchase 100 percent green energy.

While the rates municipalities have been able to negotiate have been considerably lower than what individual consumers are offered, Hurley said, it is expected to take at least until next August to get the municipal plan in place.

So, Hurley said, it could be advantageous for consumers to sign up individually now with an alternative supplier, if they can get a short-term contract.

The big cost advantage for other suppliers over ComEd may be rather short-lived. Crain’s Chicago Business reports experts believe the pricing gap will narrow within two years as ComEd’s current high-priced power-supply contracts expire.

If the referendum is approved, individual consumers would still be able to opt out of the city’s power supplier agreement, but it would become their default choice, as ComEd is now.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. City Council Negotiating My Electric Rates

    I would be afraid they would find some new spending projects and increase the rates.

  2. Municipal Electrical Aggregation

    This is a great idea and a great opportunity for Evanston residents.  Oak Park did a wonderful job on behalf of their citizens – not only are they saving their residents $4.5 million over two years, they have chosen 100% renewable energy thus dramatically reducing their collective carbon footprints.

    Evanston signed on to the Mayors Conference on Climate Change a few years back… following Oak Park's fine example would be one big step towards meeting our community's goals for carbon reduction

    If you'd like to learn more about Oak Park's process, just click on or cut and paste this URL into your Browser to read their story  http://www.oak-park.us/aggregation/

    Thank you members of the City Council!

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas



    1. A lot of risk is assumed.

      The 25 % saving seams to be dispelled by the question answer part of the oak park aggregation part of the story, There appears to be a great deal of risk spelled out. I'm sure that the high cost of wind tower maintenance will be passed along to oak park residents.
      It just doesn't seam possible that with the high cost of power generated from wind towers and solar panels that this can come close to competing with fossil fuels costs. If they use gas to gain a cheaper cost, they would be using a non-renewable fossil fuel. Nuclear could qualify as a cheaper energy source. Generators power by water dams would certainly be cheaper and renewable but there is not a lot big dams in the Midwest.
      I just don't get it unless our Federal Government is going to spend billions of tax payer dollars subsidizing these companies.

  3. Impact on Real Time Residential Pricing customers

    While, as an RTRP customer, I'm not seeing a 25% savings it will be interesting to see if this displaces that program. 

  4. Keep Wally’s hands out of my

    Keep Wally's hands out of my pockets for utilities.  Everything he touches costs taxpayers more and diminishes services.

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