By Anna Lothson
Going green has paid off for Oak Park.
The village made a name for itself last year when it approved an all-green community electrical aggregation program, an effort that earned the village an award last month from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The two-year contract the village entered with Chicago-based Integrys Energy Services to supply electricity and credits from wind and solar sources is on track to save residents and business owners a projected $2 million this year, according to K.C. Poulos, Oak Park's sustainability manager.
The average municipality opt-out rate nationwide is 10-15 percent, she said, but Oak Park's rate rests around 5 percent. All residents and small business were automatically enrolled under the program's regulations.
"It's really exciting," Poulos said. "People seem really pleased. It's very customer oriented."
She's heard of some residents seeking lower rates on their own, but expressed concern over other companies promising lower rates since she said the village's rate hasn't been consistently matched by any other supplier, a fact she said can be confirmed by comparing rates on plugillinois.org.
For example, Integrys offers a rate of around 5.6 cents per kWh, while ComEd's rates are closer to 7.7 cents. The electricity is still delivered by ComEd, which is responsible for customer service issues like billing and outage response.
Poulos also said some companies, including some she hadn't heard of, offer rates that can fluctuate, whereas the village's program offers a guaranteed fixed rate. She said it's likely the initial rate would rise with those other companies. Customers have been able to save around 25 percent through Oak Park's aggregation program.
Overall, Poulos said she's pleased with the program, despite a few hiccups. This includes the groups of customers who were duped into switching electrical service by fraudulent door-to-door marketing people. Those accounts, however, were recovered. There were initially around 22,600 accounts in Oak Park's program, with roughly 1,000 of those being small businesses.
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