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Four areas to vote on electric aggregation

Citizens Utilities Board Communications Director Jim Chilsen.  |  Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Citizens Utilities Board, Communications Director Jim Chilsen. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 2, 2012 6:39AM

Voters in four Lake County communities will be asked whether to allow municipal aggregation of energy. If it’s approved, City Hall will seek bids from alternate suppliers to buy energy in bulk for residential and small-business customers.

Voters in unincorporated areas of Warren Township, Fox Lake, Lake Barrington and Hawthorn Woods, will choose alternative suppliers for their residential and small-business electricity needs.

During the March primary most county communities voted on the aggregation question and are reaping the rewards of lower kilowatt-hour charges.

On Election Day, if voters decide to contract with a different energy supplier, consumers wouldn’t have to do anything to get the new rate; the change would be automatic unless the customer opted to stay with ComEd.

All customers would continue to receive bills from ComEd, which would stay on as their electricity deliverer, just not the supplier. They would call ComEd to fix any outages, as ComEd will still control all the poles and wires.

ComEd backs aggregation because it doesn’t affect its profits — by law, the utility can’t earn a markup on supply — and because ComEd’s parent company, Exelon Corp., is in the deregulation game with its subsidiary, Constellation Energy.

So far, 175 communities in the ComEd service area have begun aggregation, and Chicago voters will be deciding Election Day if they should switch.

Many communities have required protection for consumers if ComEd’s price drops, such as forcing the competitor to match that price or send customers back to ComEd. Some also have used their buying power to demand portfolios of green-energy sources.

The nonprofit Citizens Utility Board is neutral on the entire issue, saying it just wants to make sure voters are aware of what’s on the ballot. “The jury is still out” on whether any savings will be long-term, CUB spokesman Jim Chilsen said.

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