Mayor Tom Weisner called a special City Council meeting on May 24, 2012 to consider a resolution approving an agreement for Aurora's Electricity Aggregation Program. Javier Barios explained that the city had received bids from five electricity aggregation companies and Brian Caputo reported that he favored the fully "green" proposal from the First Energy company. The aldermen passed the resolution unanimously - maybe because opposition was futile, not because they all agreed.
After passing, Mayor Weisner thanked Aurora voters residents for supporting the referendum that passed in the last election and that we will be well rewarded. Yes, the aggregation is promised to lower the cost per kilowatt hour of electricity, which should translate into overall lower electric bills for households and small businesses. According to the presentations we should see savings on the cost of electricity up to 50%. The other fees we see on our bills will not be impacted as much. So, while we'll see some lowered costs, they probably won't be as aggressive as 50%. Regardless, a penny saved is better than additional increased taxes on devalued property.
It's important to understand how the referendum process works - for the benefit of elected officials. They can effectively shirk their duty to take responsibility for their decisions by presenting ideas to the public - on a ballot - and asking for a vote. When approved, the referendum essentially lifts culpability from the elected folks and places it squarely on the shoulders of the voters. All of our aldermen - and our mayor - voted to approve this contract. If it succeeds, they'll be taking bows. If it fails, it was the voters' fault.
So far, costs will go down, but we don't know exactly how that translates to the actual bills. We're hopeful. The contract is for two years and everyone has the opportunity to opt out at no cost, supposedly at any time during the contract life. There is no guarantee that costs will be lower than Com Ed after the two year period. Again, any savings is better than a tax hike.
Now, about this "green" issue. Mayor Weisner said, "We support the use of alternative energy. We're a green...progressive community." Sounds nice - "100% Green". That's something we should be able to take pride in, but wait just a minute. What do they mean by green? Will our electricity be coming only from places that produce it without using fossil fuels or nuclear energy. No. It means that the energy company has purchased sufficient Renewable Energy Certificates (Green Tags) to offset their costs for buying electricity from any (non-green) vendor. Producers of green energy sell their power back to the overall electric grid. In fact, the traditional suppliers of electricity are obligated by law to buy any surplus electricity from any supplier. Individuals who build a windmill can sell their excess back to the grid.
Green Tags are financial transactions that have practically nothing to do with the real source of energy. They are supposed to help fund the growth of green energy systems. However, there is serious concern about how effective the plan really is. In all likelihood, all of the electricity we use in Aurora - and will use with this new arrangement - will be coming from exactly the same sources we've always had - the nuclear plants, the coal-fired plants, and the gas-fired plant on Eola Road. The only thing that will change is the label we're allowed to use - and we pay for that privilege by using an electric aggregation company that uses some of our dollars to buy the Green Tags that will allow them - and us - to feel good that we're doing something positive. It is a sham to use that terminology, but we'll use it anyhow because feeling good is better than doing good.
Alderman Rick Lawrence says he is, " ...Opting out of the program for the first term to wait and see if it works." He also stated, " The numbers look good, but none of us read the contract or no anything about the company we chose. This was presented and decided within 1/2 hour. I suggested that the public should decide on their own if this is a good deal or not. I honestly don't know." I don't know, either. I am however, uncomfortable with the way this has come to pass and I will be keeping a close eye on whatever information I receive about the plan - and ON MY ELECTRIC BILLS.
-Commentary by Larry Frieders.
-Commentary by Larry Frieders.