Council approves energy program

Manuel Rapada

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Come summer, a Chicago-based alternative supplier will begin providing 100 percent renewable energy to Evanston participants in its electricity aggregation program.

Evanston City Council unanimously authorized city manager Wally Bobkiewicz to make a one-year agreement with Constellation NewEnergy Inc., capping off an electricity supplier search that began after residents approved the March 20 referendum for the program.

Over the course of Evanston’s one-year agreement, a typical residential customer who uses 9,000 kilowatt-hours a year will save $264, or $22 a month, compared to the current rate for energy supplied by Commonwealth Edison, said David Stoneback, the city’s utilities director.

To supply energy, ComEd currently charges $0.07733 per kilowatt-hour, while Constellation NewEnergy Inc. will charge electricity aggregation customers $0.04797. ComEd will still deliver electricity, handle billing and respond to outages.

The city received prices from all three pre-qualified suppliers Monday, but it deemed supplier FirstEnergy Solutions “nonresponsive” after the company failed to use a required pricing options form.

Staff recommended the 100 percent renewable energy mix over the 75 percent option because the price difference was well within the $0.001 maximum they set. In addition, they recommended a 12-month contract rather than a 24-month one because the lowest price of the latter is more than 10 percent higher than that of the former, according to the city memo.

This spring, two groups of area municipalities awarded contracts to suppliers for electricity aggregation programs.

The Northwest Suburban Electricity Buying Group, serving communities such as Arlington Heights, Ill., and Lincolnshire, Ill., received a slightly lower rate of $0.04775 per kilowatt-hour for a 100 percent renewable energy mix, according to the memo.

In contrast, the North Shore Electricity Aggregation Consortium, including Skokie and Highland Park, Ill., secured a three-year quote of $0.04836 per kilowatt-hour for a 7 percent renewable mix, with new prices provided every 12 months. Individual customers that did not opt out have the option to select their preferred percentage of renewable energy, Stoneback said.

Citizens’ Greener Evanston board member Nate Kipnis said aldermen could feel comfortable about the energy plan.

“You probably don’t get to go to bed and have a good night sleep very often,” he said. “What I’d like you to do is vote unanimously for 100 percent green power, leave here with a big smile and have a great night’s sleep.” He left the podium with much applause and some laughter from the audience.

As the lone speaker who did not express support for 100 percent renewable energy, Feinberg professor Padma Rao said her efforts to opt out of electricity aggregation have been “stonewalled by the city.”

“Why can’t we say ‘No’ to the city’s intrusion into our contract choices?” she asked.

Bobkiewicz responded that there’s nothing to opt out of before the council takes action on the contract.

After the meeting, Catherine Hurley, the city’s sustainable programs coordinator, said the next step for Evanston is to formally execute the agreement with Constellation NewEnergy before setting up a timeline to draft an opt-out letter that will be mailed to eligible customers.

The renewable energy will come from Illinois or an adjoining state, Stoneback said.

Ald. Don Wilson (4th) said 100 percent renewable energy will not reduce pollution in the area, challenging residents to “ask more questions and really work to effectuate real change.”

“I’ll sleep a little bit better tonight, but I’m not going to sleep a lot better tonight, because I know this is a very, very small step and we have a very long way to go,” he said.