When Glen Carbon resident Jerry Barber opened up his electric bill in August, it was about $25 less than the previous month’s bill. Even though his family used more electricity during the summer heat wave, Barber didn’t expect a bigger bill. Voters in Glen Carbon approved a measure in March that allowed village officials to negotiate for lower electricity supply rates.
“I thought it was worth a try and I voted for it,” said Barber, who is the transportation director for the Triad School District. “If anyone doesn’t vote for it, as far as I’m concerned, they haven’t listened.”
Voters in neighboring cities, including Collinsville and Granite City, did not approve the measure. The voting margin was narrow in both cities. In Collinsville, voters turned it down 1,052 to 1,003; in Granite City, the ordinance was defeated in a 1,395 to 1,364 vote.
Deregulation in the electricity industry and a new state law gives local governments the authority to use “municipal aggregation,” or collective buying power, to negotiate for lower electrical supply rate for residents and small business owners within that municipality. Voters have to approve the step. If the resident or business owner does not want to take advantage of the lower rate, they can opt-out of the process and keep their current supplier.
Good Energy L.P. is a energy consulting firm that will be working to negotiate the better rate between municipalities and electrical suppliers. Spokesman Philip Carr said the company has already secured competitive rates with an alternate supplier for 250,000 households in the state and those households have seen an average savings of about $200 a year.
“This gives citizens a choice to go out and buy together,” Carr said. “Kind of like a Sam’s Club for energy.”
In Madison County last March, voters in Alton, Bethalto, Glen Carbon and Godfrey approved the measure. For the upcoming election in November, residents in Collinsville, Granite City, Edwardsville, Madison, Troy, Maryville, Hamel and the county of Madison will be able to vote on the measure again.
Local leaders have said that they think many voters who voted against the proposition did not understand the complex issue. Carr said customers will still get service from Ameren to transport and service their electricity. The only change will be what company supplies the energy.
“A lot of people are afraid to move,” Carr said. “They think: If I change my supplier from Ameren, am I going to get a worse quality of service if the lights go off or there is a hail storm? You are still going to get the same service. One bill from Ameren, one payment, same quality of service.”
Carr said Good Energy, which just opened a local office in Edwardsville, is beginning an informational campaign to get the word out to voters who did not approve the March measure.
“Our understanding last time is simply not enough people knew what was going on,” Carr said. “This time we’re making doubly sure that people do know what’s going on.”
Carr said the company will soon be installing billboards in heavy-traffic areas including the Poplar Street Bridge, outside of Scott Air Force Base, the intersection of Interstates 255 and 270, Highway 159 in Collinsville and on Route 3 in Granite City. The billboards will read: “Save up to 28 percent or more. Vote yes on Nov. 6 on the Electricity Supply Proposition.”
Carr said in addition to the billboards, residents in both cities will be getting two mailers directly to their homes. Carr and other representatives will also be visiting local radio stations and attending community meetings to provide information on the measure.