By Anna Lothson
Oak Park set the standard for electrical aggregation when it teamed up in 2011 with Integrys Energy Services to provide residents with 100 percent renewable energy at a cost lower than the traditional ComEd service.
Two years later, however, ComEd has announced its rates will drop, which may make Oak Parkers worry their deal has burnt out. But according to K.C Poulos, the village's sustainability director, residents shouldn't fret. Oak Park is already ahead of the game, she said.
"We've been monitoring the situation. The aggregation program started (January 2012) and members of the program have saved $3.4 million to date," Poulos reported. "We are way ahead of the projected savings."
Recently the issue got play in Crain's Chicago Business, but Poulos said what the story failed to report is that ComEd's new rate won't start until June. Oak Parkers have already been seeing 15 months of savings.
The price for most residents under the contract with Oak Park's rate is 5.79 cents per kilowatt-hour; ComEd's projected price, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission, will drop from 8.3 cents per kilowatt-hour to 5.55 cents. While that price point dips below what Oak Park's contract offers, Poulos said that Crain's story also didn't report that ComEd's rate can also come with an additional "purchased electricity" component fee that can run .5 cents per kilowatt-hour, bumping it back above Oak Park's.
"We will still be below the ultimate rate" Poulos said.
When you're first in a program, she said it's hard to say how the energy market will react to recoup those lost customers. Once the concept became popular, municipalities jumped on the bandwagon so companies like ComEd had to reduce rates to remain competitive.
"The market reacted to that and the prices fell. Many villages are enjoying that rate because of Oak Park." Poulos said. "But they are enjoying the rates over a shorter period of time. It's good we acted early because our savings compounded more than others."
Before entering into a contract with Integrys, Oak Park officials relied on energy consultants to research trends and historical information, Poulos said. She believes Oak Park made the right move for multiple reasons. Besides the money already saved, the village entered into a deal with a company that relies on 100 percent renewable energy. Therefore, she said ComEd relies on a default supply that could be from coal and other sources that aren't always as environmentally friendly.
"Those who are motivated by clean energy — that's an important component our contract gives them," Poulos said.