For many decades most municipalities and their residents knew very little about ‘the grid’, besides the 800 number to call when the power went out. Few knew how or where their electricity was generated, let alone what impacts to the environment their thirst for electricity was having. Electricity 101 is a brief history of the US power industry.
But “the times they are a changin”. Increasing energy demands around the globe suggest that citizens and communities everywhere need to put a ‘lid on the grid’, or at least work toward being energy efficient and less polluting.
A new era has arrived as local officials throughout the country are beginning to become conversant about Electrons, MegaWatts, Sub-Stations, Transformers, Re-circulators, Renewable Energy, Hydro, Solar, Wind, Climate Change, EV Charging Stations, Micro-grids, Renewable Energy Credits (REC’s) and everything energy.
Two trends have come together here in Illinois to create a stunning new opportunity for Oak Park. Energy re-regulation and concerns over climate change resulted in a 2007 Illinois law, Community Choice Aggregation PA#96-0176. This law allows Illinois municipalities, beginning in 2009, to pool or “Aggregate” their residential and small commercial energy accounts for bidding in the energy market place.
On April 5, 2011, 66% of Oak Park voters authorized Village Hall to create the Village of Oak Park Electric Aggregation Plan of Operation and Governance.
The Plan was used to bid out Oak Park’s future energy needs. Under the leadership of our Sustainability Manager, KC Poulos, public input guided the development of the plan. Oak Park’s plan called for two-year bids with pricing for:
- the lowest cost of energy
- 100% renewable (green) power energy stream via REC’s
The current power rates, established by the Illinois Power Agency, apply to about 95% of our residents. The current rate is 7.753 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). This includes regional power transmission charges. A kWh is a unit by which residential, and most business customers, are billed for monthly electricity use. It represents the use of one kilowatt of electricity for one hour.
The bid results for Oak Parks power supply for our 52,000 residents, and 2,000 businesses, (20,000 accounts) came back even better than we expected:
Current Rate Lowest Rate 100% Renewable
Brown Power Brown Power-% Savings Green Power - % Savings
7.77 5.73 26.25% 5.79 25.7%
Power Mix Power Mix Power Mix
Nuclear 50% Nuclear 92% - 94% Wind
Coal 38% Coal 6% - 8% other non-carbon
The plan, along with market conditions, provided the Village the opportunity to save residents considerable dollars on the supply portion of their energy bills. More importantly, Oak Park’s plan created the option to have Oak Park’s electricity needs to be met by competitively priced, clean, renewable energy over the next two years.
Based on an average bill of $100 per month, the 25% savings on the energy portion of the bill will result in about a 15% reduction in the average resident and small commercial business overall electricity bills over the next two years. All bills will continue to flow through ComEd.
With the pricing bids in, the Village Board after analysis and debate, in a bold decision, decided Oak Park will be powered by renewable energy (via the REC’s process) over the next two years beginning in January, 2012.
The winning bid was provided by Integrys Energy. They will supply 92% to 94% of Oak Park’s power needs through REC’s wind power. The remaining 6% to 8% will come from other renewable, non-carbon sources. Our contract with Integrys will allow us to monitor our power sources.
I would like to thank the voters of Oak Park who trusted Village Hall enough to empower the Village government to pursue municipal aggregation, and everyone else who helped in this effort including but not limited to:
- Mr. Robert Galvin and John Kelly of the Galvin Electricity Initiative
- Mark Pruitt, former Director of the Illinois Power Agency
- Marin County Energy Authority in San Francisco
- Shawn Marshall, Board member of the Marin County Energy Authority
- Municipal Renewable Energy Committee members Frank Fletcher, Steven Glass, Jeff Riley, Ben Sayda, Matt Speer, and Jeff Wadsworth
- Craig Schuttenberg and Emmet George of Energy Choices
- ComEd for their total cooperation to date
To enjoy the savings and support clean and renewable wind energy residents do not have to do anything. The transition should be seamless.
Bottom line, the plan, process, and the board’s decision will save Oak Parkers $4.5 million off of their collective energy bills over the next two years. Simultaneously we will be promoting the renewable energy industry, helping move energy markets in the right direction, while removing tons of harmful CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. Our great, great grandchildren just might appreciate the effort!
Good job by all!