Will County is seeking a ballot measure it hopes could cut electricity bills for the 105,000 residents of unincorporated county.
Residents could see lower electrical bills as soon as July 1, if voters approve an electrical aggregation referendum on March 20 and the county is able to find a lower rate for residents, county board spokesman Nate Brown said.
The county referendum will only affect residents and small business owners in unincorporated areas. Combined with the 23 Will County towns also seeking referenda, this could affect as many as 675,000 residents, Brown said.
But first, voters need to know what they're voting on.
"As board members talk to constituents, they're reminding them to get more information before they go to the polls," Brown said.
What's Electrical Aggregation?
ComEd is the company that provides the infrastructure that gets the electricity from power plants to your house. It picks the power companies that generate the electricity.
A measure passed last year by the state Legislature will let municipalities and counties negotiate for better rates from the power companies on behalf of their residents and small businesses. They just need permission from the voters.
If the referendum passes, ComEd would still get the juice to your house and the bill will still come from ComEd.
Residents and business owners can already and still will be able to find their own cheaper rates. The Citizens Utility Board and the Illinois Commerce Commission offer resources for residents to do this online.
"It took me probably 20 minutes," said Mokena resident Ray Baranak, .
The county (or village or city, depending on where a resident lives) would then look around for a better price for the electrical part of the bill. It will take the lowest, so if ComEd still has the best rate, ComEd will still be the provider.
Will County Timeline
Brown said that if unincorporated-area voters approve the referendum, the county will schedule the two mandated public hearings for late March or April.
Next comes the official "plan of operation and governance," basically the county laying out how it plans to get service to all its residents. Then starts the bidding process.
"The one estimate I have is that they would run the bid process in early May," Brown said.
Voters who want to weigh in on the referendum but not the Republican or Democratic primary races can ask for a non-partisan ballot. That will still have the referendum.
But before the election, voters should look into aggregation and see if it's something they want to vote for.
"I have been receiving a lot of questions about the electric aggregation referendum on this month's ballot, and I want to stress the importance of taking the time to thoroughly educate one’s self on the issue," county board Chairman Jim Moustis said in a press release on Thursday.
Additional information can be found at www.willelectricaggregation.org or on the video attached to this article.
Correction: This story was corrected at 11:04 a.m. Friday to clarify that ComEd does not operate the power plants that generate the electricity. Patch regrets the error.