Normal joins a group of 58 communities signing municipal aggregation contracts with Homefield Energy. (photo by Gus Thomson/flickr)
By Eric Stock
DECATUR - Normal town officials signed a contract today with 57 other cities, towns and local government bodies that will enable the town to see energy savings even greater than they anticipated.
At a meeting at the Decatur Public Library, Normal entered into a 17-month agreement with Homefield Energy, an Ameren Corp. subsidiary, to offer energy to current Ameren customers at about 4.1 cents per kilowatt hour.
Voters in Normal approved power aggregation in November after rejecting it in the spring. Bloomington also voted against the referendum in the spring, but plans to bring the issue back to the votes again.
Residents currently pay an average of 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour with Ameren. Corn Belt Energy customers are ineligible for power aggregation.
"It's a greater savings than the town was anticipating," Assistant to the City Manager Sally Heffernan said. "Our broker was telling us they expected about 4.1 cents. That estimate was of course significantly less than what we got."
Heffernan said the new service will likely take effect in February and that customers should begin seeing the savings in their March utility bills. She added that the rate could drop more after the 17-month contract expires.
"The expiration will coincide with the expiration of their contracts, so that in the next round we will be able to go out with even more communities and hopefully get an even better rate than now," said Heffernan.
City Manager Mark Peterson estimated the average residential customer will save approximately $200 to $300 per year. He also said that 100 percent of the power comes from renewable energy sources.
The agreement locks in the rate for the length of the contract. Customers will receive a letter in the mail that will offer then an opportunity to opt out and continue paying their current rate if they wish.
Meanwhile, Bloomington City Manager David Hales proposed reconsidering the question of municipal aggregation at the council's next meeting on Monday.
"Representatives from Good Energy will be here to talk about how the public information program can be more robust," said Hales. "We believe that was one of the deficiencies that last go around."
If the council approves the ordinance, it would appear on the April ballot. Mayor Steve Stockton thinks it's a good idea to hear the proposal again.
"Some people will say that the voters have already voted it down but I think there's some renewed understanding to this subject," said Stockton. "We've seen many other cities, including our neighbor to the north, where it was voted down and people had second thoughts."
Eric Stock can be reached at email@example.com. Zach Dietmeier contributed to this story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.