Municipal Electric Aggregation

What is Municipal Electric Aggregation?

A program that saves Champaign residents and small businesses money on their electric bills.

It is made possible by state legislation (20 ILCS 3855/1-92) allowing municipalities to “aggregate” (or bundle) all eligible electric accounts together to get one great price for the whole community.

In order to operate an opt-out program, the City had to first get approval from voters in a referendum. The referendum was approved March 20, 2012.

Why aggregate?

Have you gotten fliers in the mail from Retail Electric Suppliers (RES) claiming they can save you money on your electric bill if you switch from Ameren?

The fact is, because Illinois is now a deregulated energy state, they probably can.

Large companies and local governments that use a lot of electricity have been purchasing it from Retail Electric Suppliers for several years. The City of Champaign saves thousands of dollars each year by purchasing electricity on the open market rather than from Ameren.

However, few residents and small businesses take advantage of deregulation. The reasons are not entirely clear, but many folks may fear the fine print contained in the offers they have received, while others may worry about early termination fees if they move before their contract ends. There are a variety of possible explanations.

That’s why the City has established an electric aggregation program. Instead of requiring residents to evaluate the various offers from Retail Electric Suppliers on their own, the City of Champaign is doing it for you. We have grouped all the eligible accounts together, and are serving as a go-between to negotiate on behalf of residents and small businesses for the best rate possible.

What’s in it for the City?

The City’s electric aggregation program is revenue neutral, meaning the City will only recoup the costs to start and manage the program and will not use this as a revenue source. The estimated cost to start the program and manage it for two years is $100,000.

The City is offering municipal electric aggregation as a service to its residents and small businesses. There is no catch. You save money. And if you don’t want to participate, you are welcome to opt-out, it’s really that simple.

How does it work?

In April 2012, the City sought bids for electric supply from Retail Electric Suppliers.

On May 22, 2012, the City accepted the bid from Integrys which was lower than the default Ameren rate.

In Summer 2012, the City, in conjunction with Integrys, mailed opt-out letters to all eligible residents and small businesses.   Anyone who did not want to participate  opted-out of the program.

At the end of the opt-out period, all eligible residents and small businesses that did not opt-out were switched over to the City’s new aggregation program electric rate.

What Are the Benefits of Municipal Electric Aggregation (MEA)?

The most important MEA benefit is the opportunity for Champaign residents and small businesses to save money on their electric bills.

There are also opportunities for helping the environment as the City purchased 100% renewable energy for its electric aggregation program.

Another benefit is that by negotiating on behalf of all residents and small businesses, the City can obtain favorable contract provisions that individual residents cannot achieve on their own, i.e. no switching, enrollment, or early termination fees.

What component of my electricity bill will aggregation affect?

Aggregation affects only one of the three components of an electricity bill. The three components are supply (where the power comes from), transmission (getting the supply from its point of origin or from the high voltage grid), and distribution (getting the electricity from the substation to the consumer’s meter).  Aggregation impacts only the supply component, which is typically 60 to 70% of the electricity bill.  The transmission and distribution parts of the bill will be unaffected by aggregation.

What is the Ameren “default” rate?

This is an electricity rate that is established each year (June to May) by the ICC and the Illinois Power Agency. If an electricity user in the Ameren service area does not select an alternative retail electricity supplier or does not belong to an MEA, Ameren will provide electricity to that user at the fixed default rate. The Ameren default rate as of May 2013 is $0.0468 (June to September) and $0.0496 (October to May).

Is it possible the City’s aggregation rate will be higher than the Ameren default rate?

No. Because Ameren’s default rate is set by the Illinois Commerce Commission, Ameren cannot arbitrarily raise or lower the rate. The City has structured its electric aggregation Plan of Operation and Governance so that if the Ameren default rate ever drops below the City’s rate, the Retail Electric Supplier must either match that rate, or return all aggregation members to the Ameren default rate at no cost.

What is the Plan of Operation and Governance?

To establish a Municipal Electric Aggregation Program, the City was required by State Statute to develop and adopt a Plan of Operation and Governance. The Plan defines how the City will operate its aggregation program. The Plan of Operation and Governance was reviewed and adopted by City Council.

If I join the City’s electric aggregation program, who will deliver my power, read my meter, and respond to emergencies, such as power outages?

Under the City’s aggregation program, participants will still receive one monthly bill from Ameren and make one payment to Ameren.  Ameren will answer questions concerning your bill and respond to emergencies.

Can I still have my payment automatically deducted from my checking account?

Yes, your bill payment options will not change.

Can I stay on budget billing?

Yes, your budget billing will not be affected by participation in this program.

If I heat my home with electricity, can I save money with electric aggregation?

Customers on Ameren’s electric space heat program can join the City’s aggregation program. However, review the rates carefully and compare to ensure there would be a cost savings by joining the City’s aggregation program.

What if I am with another Retail Electric Supplier and I want to join the City’s Municipal Electric Aggregation Program?

You will be allowed to join (opt-in to) the City’s aggregation program. However, proceed with caution. Review the terms and conditions of your current agreement with your Retail Electric Supplier carefully because there may be early termination or switching fees and penalties.

How can I get more information about Municipal Electric Aggregation?

Go to the Ameren Illinois, Illinois Competitive Energy Association, or Citizen Utility Board websites for more information on Municipal Electric Aggregation.

Who is the Retail Electric Supplier for Champaign’s Municipal Electric Aggregation Program?

Through a Request for Qualifications process and a competitive  price bidding process, the City selected Integrys Energy Services, Inc. as the Retail Electric Supplier. On May 22, 2012, Council authorized the City Manager to execute a power supply agreement with Integrys to provide electricity for the City’s aggregation program for 24 months at a price of $0.04315 per kilowatt hour, which includes 100 percent renewable energy.

What does “opt-out” mean?

“Opt-out” means that we are operating under the assumption that you want to participate in the City’s electric aggregation program, but you can decline to participate.

If you opt-out, you will not receive the lower electricity rate of $0.04315 per kilowatt hour.

How do I opt-out?

If you do not wish to participate in the City’s Municipal Electric Aggregation Program, there are three ways to opt-out of the program:

  1. Return the opt-out postcard that will be enclosed with the materials that Integrys and the City mails you concerning the electric aggregation program; or
  2. Call Integrys toll-free at (888) 491-1362, representatives are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; or
  3. Online at www.integrysenergy.com/il-champaign.

What happens if I do not opt-out?

You will be included in Champaign’s electric aggregation program.

What are my energy supply choices if I decide to opt-out?

You can stay with Ameren and pay a higher electricity rate or you can shop for a Retail Electric Supplier which may or may not have a lower electricity rate than the City’s program.

Will every resident and small business in the City receive an opt-out letter?

Customers listed below who are not on the Ameren default rate cannot be guaranteed savings through the City’s aggregation program and will not be automatically enrolled in the program:

  • Ameren customers on Power Smart Pricing, Hourly Supply Service, or Real Time Pricing; or
  • Customers under contract with a Retail Electric Supplier.

These customers received an opt-in letter from the City and were given the opportunity to join the City’s program.

Who qualifies for opt-in?

“Opt-in” means the process by which an eligible resident or small commercial retail customer shall be afforded the opportunity to choose to participate in the City’s Aggregation Program.  Such customers shall include Ameren customers on Power Smart Pricing, Hourly Supply Service, Real Time Pricing, or under contract with a Retail Electric Supplier.

How do I enroll?

If you wish to participate in the City’s Municipal Electric Aggregation Program, there are two ways to opt-in to the program:

1.  Call Integrys toll-free at (888) 491-1362; representatatives are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week;  or

2.  Online at www.integrysenergy.com/optintochampaign

Will any resident or small business not be eligible for the City’s electric aggregation program?

Yes. Customers that are not located within the City’s corporate limits, that have free Ameren service, or are on an Ameren bundled hold are not eligible for the City’s program.

Will I be allowed to join the program after the initial enrollment period?

Yes. Any resident or small business who meets the eligibility requirements for the City’s electric aggregation program can join at any time. There will be no fees to join. However, there is no guarantee the electricity rate will be the same as the rate originally offered when the Municipal Electric Aggregation program was started.

Can I opt-out of the program at a later date?

Yes. You can opt-out at any time. There are no early termination penalties or cancellation fees.

What if I move out of Champaign before the contract is over?

You will be free to leave with no penalty and no early termination fees.

What if I change addresses but stay in Champaign?

You will have the option to notify the supplier and remain in the program, or you will be switched back to Ameren when your electricity is hooked back up at your new residence.

What happens when the City’s aggregation program is over?

The City’s first power supply agreement with Integrys is for 24 months. Before that time is up, the City will decide whether or not to renew the program. If the program is not renewed, aggregation members will simply be returned to the default Ameren service. If it is renewed but at a different price, residents will once again be notified and have the opportunity to opt-out.

What is the current City Municipal Electric Aggregation Rate?

When the City executed the power supply agreement with Integrys (May 2012), the rate was $0.04149 per kwh. Starting with the July 2013 billings, Integrys will raise the rate to $0.04315 per kwh.

I thought the Integrys rate for electricity was fixed at $0.04149 per kwh for 24 months?

The component of the Integrys rate that is for the cost to supply electricity is fixed. The component of the rate that Integrys has no control over such as taxes and tariffs is not fixed. According to the City and Integrys’ power supply agreement, Integrys can pass along to the City’s Municipal Electric Aggregation customers increases in taxes and tariffs.

What taxes and tariffs increased causing Integrys to increase their electricity rate?

Both the ICC and MISO Increased their tariffs. The tariffs are explained below:

• ICC Tariff: The ACP (Alternative Compliance Payment) is a required payment that all retail electricity suppliers in Illinois must pay to the ICC for every kWh of electricity they sell in Illinois. The ICC uses these dollars to ensure/enforce compliance with the Illinois
Renewable Portfolio Standard. The ICC increased this tariff May 13, 2013, effective June 1, 2013.

• MISO Tariff: The NITS (Network Integration Transmission Service) is a MISO (Midwestern Independent System Operator) tariff that Ameren distribution customers must pay. The tariff covers MISO expenses associated with delivering and balancing electricity on the regional grid. MISO increased the tariff late 2012, effective January 1,2013.

Can I opt-out of the program if I am not satisfied with the new rate?

Yes. You can opt-out at any time. There are no early termination penalties or cancellation fees.

Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

If you have additional questions, please contact the Integrys Customer Service Department at (888) 491-1362. The Integrys Customer Service Department is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also contact the City’s Public Works Department at 403-4700.

Receipt of complaints

The City of Champaign and Integrys Energy Services have received calls from Champaign residents and small business owners about aggressive and misleading phone and in-person solicitations being made by other energy providers and alternate residential suppliers.  These other providers are not the City’s vendor for the Municipal Electric Aggregation program.  Any claims made by their representatives that they are confirming enrollment into the City’s program, that time to act is limited, and that Ameren account information must be provided to enroll in the program are false and should be disregarded.  Neither the City nor Integrys will contact MEA program participants in this manner.  Citizens should never compromise their security by providing Ameren account information to anyone unless you intend to enroll in an alternate program of your choosing. 

Complaints about any aggressive behavior about another provider may be filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission Consumer Services Division by phone (800) 524-0795 or online at http://www.icc.illinois.gov/consumer/complaint  or with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office at (800) 243-0618 or http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/filecomplaint.html. You may also call the Champaign Public Works Department at (217) 403-4700 or Integrys customer service at (888) 491-1362 to verify the legitimacy of any contacts you receive regarding the City’s MEA program.