Commissioners approve ballot initiative for electrical aggregation
The Johnson County commissioners met for a regularly scheduled meeting Monday in which they passed an ordinance by a vote of 2-to-1 to place on the March ballot a question regarding electrical aggregation.
Electrical aggregation allows communities and municipalities to join each other and form buying groups that “significantly” reduces their costs.
“It’s an opt out electric aggregation program,” Nick Hill said by phone Tuesday morning. Hill is an energy consultant representing Southern Illinois for Select Energy Partners based out of Chicago. He has spent the past few months meeting with community leaders in the area educating them on the benefits of electrical aggregation and proposing Select Energy as their negotiator.
“If you are already with a third-party supplier you won’t be in on the aggregation, you would then have to opt in if you wanted to get in,” Hill said. “It’s simply giving the residents another option and in a lot of cases it’s the cheapest.”
Hill said residents have the opportunity to reduce their overall energy costs each month and that the only thing a resident would notice was a lower bill. Ameren, which services the majority of residents in Johnson County, would continue to maintain the infrastructure and delivery with energy bills only reflecting a change in price while continuing to be issued through Ameren.
An estimated 800 communities have aggregation services in place already and Hill estimated that number to surpass 1,000 after the March election.
“Once it gets closer to the election, we’ll do an educational campaign where we will get out and try to inform the voters on what they are voting on,” Hill said.
At the meeting Monday, chairman Jeff Mears, abstaining from the vote, said his primary concern was the idea of people not aware of the program and having it enacted without their “real” consent. But, the option for individuals to “opt out” at any time was noted and commissioner Ernie Henshaw motioned to place it on the March ballot and let the voters decide.
“Any business or even a resident can go out right now and try to shop it around and see what the best rate is,” Hill said. “The reason electrical aggregation is so popular is that it allows an entire community, and in most cases, communities team up together to get as much buying power as they can, which usually drives down the price from suppliers.”
The commissioners also approved a measure to allow Select Energy Partners to negotiate on the behalf of the county, joining Goreville and Vienna in pursuing lower municipal electric bills through aggregation.
“We feel pretty comfortable saying there will be a good group of 20 to 25 counties and municipalities that will be together in the buying group,” Hill said. The number of counties in which Johnson would possibly be a part of is expected to increase in the coming years once contracts have expired for an already created group that includes Jackson and Williamson counties.
Also at the meeting Monday, the commissioners heard from Health Alliance representative Dan Dowling on the coming changes to the county’s insurance rates when its policy renews in 2014. Among the most significant changes is the addition of vision and dental for dependents. Johnson County falls under the “large group” employer category by having more than 50 employees, which requires it to offer “affordable coverage” to its employees that cannot exceed 9.5 percent of their income. This coverage is based on an individual and does not include cost of dependents. Dependents would also be allowed on a policy up to age 26 or up to age 31 for veterans.
Commissioners also voted to remove the petition for annexation from the agenda until further information was provided by the city of Vienna on its proposal. Highway and county bills were approved in the amounts of $76,527.44 and $72,486.31 respectively.
The next regularly scheduled county commissioners’ meeting is set for Oct. 7, to begin at 3:30 p.m.