Oak Park scraps green energy program

Residents must opt-in for renewable energy

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The days of cheap, 100 percent green power are coming to a close in Oak Park with a decision by the village board of trustees Friday.

The board has used an energy aggregation scheme since 2011, making energy prices about a quarter cheaper than ComEd's rate, and using solely green energy options—a move that saved Oak Park consumers more than $4 million. But ComEd energy rates are about to change in June, and energy aggregation rates will change with them.

The village put the aggregation program out to a public bid last week and received two bids from renewable energy companies and one from the so-called "brown energy" or non-renewable energy company, Constellation.

Board members chose the brown energy option, which will save the average consumer about $5 a month. The non-green option came in at 7.47 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to the higher green energy bids of 7.9 cents and 8.59 cents.

Oak Parkers currently pay about 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour through energy supplier Integrys. Emmett George with Energy Choices, an energy consultant to the village, said he suspects the ComEd rate, will wind up somewhere between 7 cent and 8 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Trustee Peter Barber said green power was "absolutely a great idea when it came along … because everything was cheaper."

Barber added, however, that, "Citizens are tired of paying what it costs to live in this village, and if we don't start to address that, I don't think we're doing our job as a board."

Trustee Colette Lueck, the only vote against the brown energy option, said environmentalism is an important value for Oak Park residents.

"I know that in Oak Park, also, green is very important to a lot of people, and they would pay the $5 to have the green," she said.

Residents will still have the option to purchase all-green power by choosing their own power supplier, but they must opt-in to the program.

George noted, however, that consumers frequently do not take the extra step to go beyond the default option. He noted that in an opt-in program run by Energy Choices for the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, an organization representing suburban municipalities, fewer than 10 percent of consumers participated.

"It was a matter of just not taking action," he told village trustees.

Village President Anan Abu-Taleb said he supports the cheaper non-renewable option because consumers can still choose the green option.

"We put the people on the controlling seat and give them a choice," he said, adding, "On a personal preference, I'm going to go green, but I thank God we live in a country where people can have choices."

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said the village will establish a public awareness campaign to make residents aware that they still have the green option.

Email: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Pete Torterello from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2014 11:17 AM

REC's are a scam, achieving very little except to make Al Gore a billionaire. More info about REC;s from the Chair of Environmental Studies at UC - Santa Cruz, an otherwise bastion of progressivism. They are not what you think they are, and that's by design. It's a Ponzi/Madoff-like scheme that unwitting do-gooders have bought hook, line, & sinker. http://energybrokernetwork.com/press_ltr.pdf. Hate to burst your green bubble, but you've been dooped, fellow DOOPERS.

Want to stay in Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2014 8:45 AM

Only $5/month, $60/year? Shameful? I commend the board for this decision. The residents of Oak Park need relief wherever it can be found. Think of the value if each Oak Park household spent their $60 at a local business. I just received my property tax assessment this week, claiming that my property value is up 10%. I need to again work my budget to see if I can afford to live here. Here's an idea, lets cut the school levies to fund green programs in the village. I would support that.


Posted: April 17th, 2014 4:45 PM

Info about RECs: http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/documents/gpp_basics-recs.pdf


Posted: April 17th, 2014 4:44 PM

It is still upsetting that we are not purchasing RECs as a village--we can do more as a village than as individuals. If we had gone with the green option, you could still opt out for brown, but the board decided that those people who would want or need brown wouldn't read or understand the materials to opt out, and if they did, they wouldn't follow through. Guess they were wrong--seems like some very concerned, passionate people who would do what they could to go the least expensive route.

Uh, Mark  

Posted: April 17th, 2014 2:57 PM

Which part of all this did you miss? The energy we were receiving this whole time was never "green." All we were doing was paying for green energy credits. We used brown energy the whole time. Are people around here really this obtuse or were you just not paying attention the whole time?

Mark from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2014 12:13 PM

This decision is shameful. I look for leadership from our village leaders, not bean counting. More CO2 emissions for the sake of $5 a month? Seriously?

john murtagh from oak park village  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 3:58 PM

Bridgett - Great job of clueing all or most of us on the Green/Brown. It was very helpful information.

OP Res 253 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 3:37 PM

Well said Bridgett! This is just knee jerk: Green=Good from folks who do not understand what the actual issues involve. And @BradBartels, you are not required in anyway to recycle. Your blue bin, like my womb, are ours to do with as we'd like. I know you believe I should have choice when it involves my body, I'd like you to allow me the same freedom with my wallet, and my interpretation of scientific research (though current IPCC models may not reach that threshold)..

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 12:05 PM

As others have pointed out in these comments, there are options residents have to "go green" for their electric needs. We all have been using "brown" energy these past two years. The difference is that we've been paying for RECs (renewable energy credits), wind credits, that have offset this "brown" energy. So anyone can buy RECs, and as much as you want, not limited to your personal usage. So those passionate about being green, can pay for their neighbors who are unable to, for whatever reason.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 11:59 AM

Carolyn,You are correct that the purpose of an agg. program is to negotiate the best price. It just so happened that the best price, at the time, was green. Your question/suggestion is not a possible option. You can't go back to ComEd, as a default, and use the agg. program as an option. The prices offered via an agg. program are cheaper b/c the idea is that you are promising that company a certain amount of business, which can only happen if the company is the default one, not the optional one.

Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 11:26 AM

@Rebecca, Reading through the other articles in the WJ indicates many municipalities are following OP's lead and asking for green power. Higher demand. Supply is a factor of time, so it really looks like the demand curve shifted right while the supply curve stayed the same or didn't shift up much yielding higher prices for now which over time should lead to more supply and lower prices. Meanwhile all green power produced is used and OP decision has nominal environmental impact.

Carolyn Cullen from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 16th, 2014 8:44 AM

The purpose of the original aggregation was to obtain a lower rate than Com Ed and getting a green supplier was a great bonus. Since we don't yet know Com Ed's new rates for sure, it seems premature to use the new aggregation to select a non-green supplier; why not just let people go back to Com Ed and still use the aggregation for the green option.

Rebecca from Oak park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 11:17 PM

Bill - higher prices do not mean higher demand. In a market based economy, they theoretically mean lower demand.

Bill from Oak park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 10:38 PM

The headline should have said electricity rates rising 36% from 5.5 to 7.5 cents per kWh. This really has no environmental impact because the higher demand ensures all the green energy produced will be used by other consumers to the extent that wind is utilized. Imagine the higher demand will lead to more production. Seems like posturing by emotional greens.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 10:37 PM

So, opting out of 'green energy' after an engaged and thoughtful village board discussion constitutes 'becoming Republican'? This is one of the things I DO NOT miss about Oak Park. What's next, Rebecca? Calling people who don't hew closely enough to your supposed Democratic orthodoxy 'DINOs'? It's not always that simple.

Rebecca from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 10:09 PM

The tides they are a-turning. Are we really becoming Republicans? What happened to the progressive values this community has stood for for the past 40 years? Sickened and deeply disappointed.

SEOPer from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 9:28 PM

The board's decision makes a lot of sense and provides all Oak Park residents with good options. I consider myself a good environmentalist, but I have serious concerns about the flawed assumptions and misleading marketing that go into these energy credits. They are not what many think they are. Keep up the good work, board.

Julian from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 8:18 PM

This seems logical: ensure that Oak Parkers have the lowest cost choice available if that fits their particular situation (and yes, $60 is a LOT of money to some of us), but make green choices available for those who wish to choose it. Good decision, Oak Park Board. Thank you!


Posted: April 15th, 2014 6:40 PM

This is a bit like saying, you're free to spend more to buy clothes not made by child slaves and bonded labor, but child-made clothing is cheap and people are struggling so we won't outlaw child slavery because free markets are awesome. Oh wait. That's exactly what we do. Oak Park took a giant step backwards with this vote. Why not have green be the default, and allow people to opt for the "cheaper" brown?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 6:15 PM

Babcock - Do we really deserve to be patronized by small snippets of questionable facts. Can we just agree that you are a Green Expert and skip the scare tactics?

Jim Dickert from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 6:11 PM

Sadly, I think most of the previous comments are correct: the worldwide disasterous effects of global warming are evident, and, the residents of Oak Park have denied efforts to do something significant about.

Jim Babcock from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 5:00 PM

Seniors, the poor--and yes, the financially stretched middle class--will not benefit from "cheap" dirty energy. As one small example, the drought in the cattle lands of Texas and the grasslands of the Midwest contributed to beef prices going up by $1 per pound. And consider the health costs of burning dirty fuel, leading to more heart disease in the elderly and asthma in children. The true cost of dirty energy is more than what you see on your monthly ComEd bill.

Big Al from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 3:35 PM

Well said "Individual Green Energy Shopper from Oak Park" Well said.

Steven B from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 3:01 PM

This board put service before ideology. In Oak Park, that's real reform. Not only do they deserve re-election- they deserve to go down in the history books.

Individual Green Energy Shopper from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 2:58 PM

@Mike S., yes you sure can purchase green energy on your own. Many people do it. To start, go here: http://viridian.com/ No one needs to rely on their local government to spoonfeed them what's best for them. Do your homework before hopping on the outrage bandwagon.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 2:57 PM

For Mike: The Village will be sending out information, probably much more stream-lined and clear than this. And I'm sure organizations and folks passionate about green sources, will also be offering the information you are looking for as well. But here is some information in the meantime... http://apps3.eere.energy.gov/greenpower/buying/buying_power.shtml

New Board Please  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 2:50 PM

I will likely not vote for these trustees at the next go around. Vote green!!!

Mike S from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 2:31 PM

Lets make one thing clear. The board did not accept a green alternative bid that we have the right to chose. There is no other option but coal-fired greenhouse-gas producing electricity. You can't just call up Integrys and buy green power. If anyone figures out how to do that, can they please post that information here?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 12:10 PM

Richard Alton - How can this be a board mistake? At the public forum on the subject, The staff did not provide a lower rate energy option (brown option). The staff only provided green options (higher rate). The board's decision on the issue was to give all residents a wider pricing choice (green and brown). That is; the board did not restrict residents from receiving a lower energy rate, We who wish to can go green. Those who have are financially challenged difficulty can go brown. For decades, the village board saw all OP residents as being financial well off and able to buy from the luxury rack whether the issue was development, housing, staff size and salary, or progressive legislation. In giving choices to the residents, the board is recognizing that diversity in Oak Park includes the incomes of each and every resident. The board took a democratic stand and we all should be proud.

Seems Logical from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 9:58 AM

The Village chose an option that allows residents to have the cheapest available price but also will make sure that those who want a green option will be able to choose that? This makes complete sense. Why would anyone be upset by it?

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 9:47 AM

It's not mentioned in the article, but I recall when we went to Integrys, my electric bill went down considerably. It was a win-win - lower cost AND green. Now, with costs going up, I think the Board made the right decision. I hope anyone who can afford it will continue to choose green.


Posted: April 15th, 2014 7:56 AM

I want to applaud the board for the action it took. I was only able to get coffee from the Buzz cafe 28 days out of the month, now I can make 29 and if I just get the drip maybe eek out 30/31. Without this savings, I'd be forced not to have coffee every day of the month. Thank you!

Mary Unbehauen Rodrigo from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 15th, 2014 4:25 AM

This is all about money. You either have it or you don't. I applaud the decision of the board to allow everyone to win in this situation. If the majority of this community is so focused on alternate forms of energy they can enjoy their choice by opting out. Others do not have the freedom to make this choice which is very much a financial one.

Laurie Casey from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 10:33 PM

This decision is head-scratching because it happened just days after an IPCC report warned us that we need to step up our game against climate change. Individual effort (i.e. "opt in") is not working. We need broad, brave policies. Thank you Colette Lueck for doing the right thing. Other board members: you just acted against the best interests of our children. Think more creatively. Yes, help seniors pay their bills, but don't shortchange my child's future at the same time.

Friar Tuck from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 10:18 PM

Mr Alton, the Trustees also heard lots of input from individual citizens: low income & seniors, and others who have simply been vastly overtaxed & expressed their feelings. The trustees then did what they are charged with, which is to balance the needs of everyone, & most important, to trust the citizenry. The trustees, finally, are very much in touch with citizens' concerns, not just those committee members with a megaphone & an ideological bias.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 10:02 PM

Mr Dickert, I must smile at the irony of your post, since as you wrote it was SNOWING on April 14!! We're really not that important in the grand scheme of things. Conserve, use energy responsibly, yes. Succumb to those who worship at the altar of fundamentalist environmentalism, no. I'll choose the green option, but in no way, as Mr Bartels says, is this anywhere close to the fair housing issues of 1968. To attempt to pair them is silly at best, irresponsible at worst Well done trustees.

Brad Bartels from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 9:22 PM

So when can residents start to opt out of the recycling program - that would save a lot for those that don't recycle and would be a cheaper option? Who is picking up the true economic cost of brown energy? Sorry, I moved to a Village that was a leader and sometimes made tough economic choices because they were the right thing to do - the housing laws which were a precursor to Fair Housing Act of 1968 come to mind. I choose to live in a community that values the mutual good of it citizens above that of self interest. This was not leadership - far from it. It was pandering - pure and simple. Sad - truly sad.

JH from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 8:57 PM

Our right to choose has not been eliminated. Each gets to take action accordingly.

Richard Alton from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 8:20 PM

I am stunned that the Trustees would go against the recommendation of the staff and the citizen's Commission on Energy and the Environment. Both recommended staying with Green. There were two citizens meetings and there was no mention of a brown alternative only the type of a green program. The Trustees show they are out of touch with citizen's concerns and the terrible sustainability problems facing Oak Park and the world.

Adam Smith  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 8:12 PM

Individuals can choose whomever they want, just like before. The Board did the right thing.

Andrew Berman from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 7:53 PM

The decision is absolutely shameful. Given the recent international report on the threat to all of us from global warming, the decision-makers of our community have demonstrated exceedingly poor judgement.

Jim Dickert from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 7:36 PM

"Oak Park scraps green program" and with that scraps its moral leadership to, yes, save the world. Global warming is here and serious. Until this decision we were facing the crisis. This decision is a disaster, I think.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 6:40 PM

I watched the whole 40-minute thoughtful discussion and was impressed by the Village Board and Village employees. While some of them indicated that they would personally opt for the more-expensive green option, they voted with the entire 50,000 residents in mind, some being, as Peter Barber said more than once, seniors on a fixed income where $60 a year, matters. In addition, the Board made it clear the need for effectively communicating to the residents the green option and how to get it.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 6:22 PM

Kudos indeed to those trustees who voted for this change. Ms. Lueck's stance is strange. If she was aiming for symbolism in her vote, it was senseless because people still can choose to pay the extra $. I prefer substance in the votes of my trustees.

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2014 5:52 PM

The board deserves a big congratulations on its energy decision. If a choice is available and meets the needs and desire of the residents; it should be offered.

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