---- — TONY HUFFMAN
The result of a 2009 state law allowing for electric aggregation puts Illinois ahead of every other state in the nation in cities providing 100 percent renewable energy.
The law made it possible for the City of Effingham and its residents to choose what company provides electricity. A referendum passed by city voters a few years ago gave the city permission to purchase electricity in bulk from Home Field Electric Company, giving residents and small businesses the option to go with a cheaper provider.
The results of that decision were immediate, said City Administrator James Arndt. City residents that chose to follow the city’s aggregation saw a 30 percent decrease in their electric bill.
Although Effingham didn’t select an option that provided 100 percent renewable energy like other communities in the state, including Charleston, Decatur and Champaign, Arndt said if more residents prefer a renewable energy option in the future, the city might change its purchasing choice.
“People voted for the savings,” said Arndt, noting that the renewable option would have been more costly. “We are driven by what the consumer wants.”
The increase for renewable energy equates to approximately 2 cents more per kilowatt hour usage, according to Arndt. According to Illinois Power Agency Director Anthony Star, the average household uses about 12,000 kilowatt hours annually. Star was quick to point out that specific numbers vary greatly depending on the electric provider’s deal with the alternative energy provider, which is an unregulated market.
“The state is encouraging aggregation for a way to save the customer money and help the environment,” said Star, who added that the vast majority of the renewable energy purchased for Illinois comes from Midwestern wind power.
Since the law was enacted, more than 600 Illinois cities and towns have adopted aggregation. Of those, 91 are providing 100 percent renewable energy, either by buying it directly or buying credits that help fund renewable energy development, according to a report by national and state environmental groups.
Five other states — California, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island — also allow communities to buy electricity, but none come close to matching the renewable energy Illinois is purchasing, according to Keya Chatterjee, senior director for renewable energy and footprint outreach at the World Wildlife Fund.
“It is huge what is already being done” in Illinois, Chatterjee told the Associated Press recently. “This is a story about local choice, and (Illinois) is choosing renewables in town after town after town.”
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said the report’s findings could be a model for other states that are considering allowing community aggregation.
“Illinois is showing what can happen when change at the local level is harnessed to create a collective movement, and I hope other states take notice,” Durbin said.
Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 138 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@Ednthuffman.