Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he wants the city to vie for cheaper electricity rates from companies other than ComEd. The city council will look at a proposal Friday that would be the first step towards making those negotiations possible.
ComEd is the electricity giant in Chicago. If the city wants the authority to negotiate for more competitive rates with any other suppliers, state law says Chicago voters have to weigh in. Two powerful Chicago aldermen, Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) and Ald. Ed Burke (14th), recently proposed a referendum that would put the issue. If their proposal passes through city council, then voters will decide in November.
The concept is known as "municipal electricity aggregation." It allows cities to bundle all residential and small business electricity supplied together, and negotiate for volume discounts from smaller suppliers. The aggregation affects the cost for the supply of electricity, not the delivery of electricity.
According to the consumer watchdog organization Citizens Utility Board, ComEd electricity bills contain both those costs, but only the supply would change if Chicago goes forward with the plan. ComEd electricity rates from September to June cost 6.932 cents per kilowatt hour, and will jump to 8.32 per kwh from October to May of next year. Meanwhile, according to a CUB spokesman, some of these smaller suppliers are offering rates of under a nickle per kilowatt hour.
Mayor Emanuel told reporters at an unrelated event Wednesday he's for the referendum and cheaper electricity rates.
"I do believe, I've looked at other cities, buying in bulk can save homeowners and residents money. Therefore I'll support putting it on the ballot and I will advocate for it," he said.
ComEd released a statement late Thursday night in response to the mayor's support, saying they support competition.
"If the City of Chicago decides to pursue an aggregation program, we will work cooperatively with them and provide the same information we have provided to other municipalities and governments that elected to aggregate," the statement said.
According to CUB, 188 other ComEd territories in Illinois have already either signed off on the referendum, or negotiated new prices for customers. A spokesman for Alderman Ed Burke says some of those municipalites have reported savings of 15 to 30 percent lower than ComEd.
ComEd said its primary focus is on providing high quality delivery services.
If the referendum passes in Chicago, voters who don't want their electricity costs to be bundled can opt-out of the aggregation program.
The proposal will come before a city council committee Friday.