Chicagoans are going to the ballot boxes on Nov. 6 not just to vote for their president and judges, but also various ballot initiatives one of which is "electrical aggregation."
The official phrasing that will be displayed on the ballot is as follows: “Shall the City of Chicago have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial customers who have not opted out of such program?”
So, what is electrical aggregation?
Electricity Aggregation is a program that would allow the City of Chicago to seek bids for lower electricity rates on behalf of city residents and small business owners. It is a system in place in over 200 other Illinois municipalities as a result of Illinois Public Act 096-0176 and present in at least five other states (Ohio, Rhode Island, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts.) The program would be optional. Residents can opt out at no charge. However, the larger the group of people the lower the rates should be. The program in other states, like Massachusetts, has actually allowed for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to be part of the solution to reduce energy rates. Savings in electricity bills have varied from 12-30 percent in the places where "electricity aggregation" is already in place.
The process is optional and will take more than just passing a ballot referendum to put it into place. The city, in order to have an electricity aggregation program, must 1. hold public hearings to discuss the aggregation program's priorities and goals, 2. adopt a plan of how to govern and operate the program, 3. notify all residents and qualified small commercial accounts holders of the prices and terms of the electricity contract, and 4. enroll the opted-in accounts into the program and 5. begin monitoring performance for savings.
It's not a guarantee for any of the above promises of cleaner energy or cheaper energy, but based on previous form, voting "YES" seems like a good option. Especially in times of economic hardship, we don't want a monopoly on who can be our energy providers. We want to see other options other than ComEd, and we have a right to do that in smaller groups. I just hope this doesn't disproportionately affect Chicagoans pending on where they live.
More on voting in Chicago.