In some Chicago suburbs, electricity rates have dropped as much as 40 percent thanks to a process called “electricity aggregation,” which allows communities to negotiate for lower electricity bills.

On. Nov. 6, voters in Chicago and about 60 other Illinois municipalities will have a chance to join in by approving referendums authorizing aggregation. They should do so.
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Under legislation Gov. Pat Quinn signed in August 2009, municipal residents can vote to negotiate with more than 40 certified alternative power suppliers for better electricity prices. Banding together to buy power in bulk gives municipal ratepayers leverage.

In the primary election last March, more than 200 Illinois communities voted to do so, and they generally have seen significantly lower electricity bills since then. Elsewhere in the nation, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island have community aggregation programs, and according to the Citizens Utility Board, Rhode Island and Ohio estimate their programs have saved consumers more than $18 million a year.

Individuals already have the right to switch to an alternate supplier, and more than 1.5 million ComEd residential customers have done so, but that’s a daunting process for one homeowner. If a municipality such as Chicago does it, the hard work of negotiating a contract is done in the background. Most people will notice only the lower bills. The Citizens Utility Board has scheduled a Wednesday news conference to release its guide for consumers trying to better understand electricity aggregation.

On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel repeated his support for the idea, which passed the City Council unanimously.



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