Frequently Asked Questions
What is Municipal Aggregation?
Municipal Aggregation is a program that came out of state legislation empowering local governments in Illinois to create large bulk-purchasing groups composed of residential and small business electricity accounts (business accounts must use 15,000 kilowatt-hours [kWh] or less annually) in order to acquire cheaper supply rates from licensed Alternative Retail Electric Suppliers (ARES). By aggregating, or grouping, a large number of accounts together, economies of scale are created, enabling participating municipalities to achieve greater savings for account holders than could normally have been achieved by the individual customer.
What are the Benefits of Municipal Aggregation?
The key benefit of municipal aggregation is the ability for residential and small business account holders to save money on their electric bills while experiencing no change in the level of service provided by the utility that distributes the electricity supply, in this case, Ameren. A large portion of those savings will find their way back into local economies and benefit the entire community!
How does Municipal Aggregation work?
First, the municipality must place a referendum on the Primary Election ballot, asking voters to give their municipal government the authority to create an aggregation program. Once the referendum is approved, the municipality creates an aggregation plan that includes the objectives, procedures, and process for the program. The municipality, through its expert consultants, then seeks bids from ARES to obtain competitive electricity supply rates for prospective participants. A resident or small business is able to opt out of the municipality’s program without penalty if they so choose. Once a winning supplier has been selected, this supplier sends opt-out notices detailing the program to all eligible residential and small business account holders. The letter indicates the new fixed rate vs. the utility “price-to-compare,” and for how long the rate will remain in effect (term). If the account holder wishes to participate and receive the newly negotiated lower rate, no action is required. If on the other hand, they do not wish to participate, they must remit the portion of the letter indicating they do not wish to participate within 30 days of the letter’s postmark. With consideration given to customer meter read dates, the new supply rate begins the following month, though the new rate is not visible on the bill until the following month’s bill for the previous month’s service.
How does Municipal Aggregation impact my current situation and electricity bill?
The impact of municipal aggregation is primarily savings and long-term price stability. You will continue to receive a single bill and make one payment to Ameren and will continue to receive all other services from Ameren.
Your electricity bill has three cost components – electric delivery charges, electric supply charges, in addition to taxes and other fees. Municipal aggregation changes only the supply component of your bill. This is the only portion of your bill which is affected.
Customers enrolled in Ameren’s Real Time Pricing or Power Smart Pricing programs, customers who have an electric space heat rate, or customers who are already being served by an ARES are eligible under the law, but are not automatically enrolled. These customers must opt in if they wish to enroll in the program. In the latter case of being in an existing contract with an ARES, please check the terms and conditions of your ARES contract and pay special attention to any language regarding early termination fees which may be incurred as a result of ending your supply contract early.
Will the Municipal Aggregation program include both electricity and natural gas?
No, the program will focus exclusively on electricity.
When will the Municipal Aggregation program go into effect?
The majority of participating municipalities first began their programs in 2012. In December 2020, the sixth program renewal will occur. The term length for this renewal will be either 18 or 24 months, depending on the term length selected by your municipal officials.
How will I be notified that my account(s) was successfully enrolled in the Municipal Aggregation program?
Following the bid, each eligible residential and small business customer receives written notification from the winning supplier informing them of the winning supplier price compared to the utility price, and the account holder’s right to opt out. Keep an eye out for this letter as it is sometimes inadvertently discarded as junk mail. Additionally, after the 30-day opt-out period has ended, each resident will receive a letter from Ameren confirming enrollment, and that supply service will soon be switched to the new winning supplier.
Do I have to participate in the Municipal Aggregation program if I don’t want to?
No, account holders can opt out without penalty. Opt-out notices will be sent via USPS mail prior to the start/renewal of the program. If you do not wish to participate in the program, complete and return the opt-out notice within 30 days of the letter’s postmark. Remember to keep an eye out for this letter as it is sometimes inadvertently discarded as junk mail.
I opted out of this program previously. Why am I receiving another opt-out letter?
State law requires the program supplier to notify utility account holders who may have opted out in the past of any new or renewed municipal aggregation programs unique to their municipality. You may still opt out without penalty if you do not wish to participate. However, changed circumstances and/or new contract terms may make the program more attractive to prospective participants.
What if I decide to opt-out after the 30-day opt-out period has ended?
You may opt out of the municipal aggregation program at any time with no associated early termination fees or penalties. Importantly, however, if you opt-out and do not select a new supplier within two billing cycles (approximately 60 days), your account will be returned to Ameren default supply service for a total of 12 months (including the initial 60 days). This is called BGS Hold since utility rules do not allow you to select an alternative supplier during the “hold” period. The utility’s rates may change during that time and the utility has no obligation to notify you of the change.
Do I have to sign a contract?
No, there is no contract to sign, nor will anyone ever come to your home or business to discuss or promote the program. The program is designed to be as easy as possible for participants. Accounts will be automatically enrolled as long as they are currently receiving supply from the utility and are not enrolled in either Ameren’s Real Time Pricing or Power Smart Pricing programs, or have an electric space heat rate. Regular updates may be posted on the municipality’s website as the opt-out period approaches.
Can Non-Residential account holders participate?
Yes, Illinois municipal aggregation law mandates that business accounts using 15,000 kWh or less annually may participate.
Can I participate if I am a customer of an electric cooperative?
No, aggregation of customers served by electric cooperatives or by a municipality that owns and operates its own electric distribution system is excluded by the Illinois customer choice legislation. Please note, however, that even though these customers are unable to participate in a municipal aggregation program, they are still able to vote in favor of the referendum so that others in the community who are not part of the cooperative can receive program benefits.
Will I be charged a higher delivery rate?
No, delivery rates do not change based on participation in a municipal aggregation program. Utility delivery rates are regulated by the state.
Can I keep my Budget Billing program?
Yes, budget billing will not be affected as a consequence of participating in the program.
Does Municipal Aggregation affect my Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assistance?
No, PIPP and LIHEAP customers will not be affected.
What if I choose to leave the program early and return at a later date?
Participants enrolled in the program may leave the program at any time without any early termination or exit fees. You can re-join the program at a later date (during the course of the term) at the original rate by contacting the winning supplier, but your choice may be restricted by the utility “hold” described above.
What happens if I move and want to remain in the program?
If you move within the municipal boundaries of your participating municipality, you should receive an opt-out letter within one to two months of opening a new Ameren utility account. You will be automatically enrolled unless you choose to opt out during the 30-day opt-out period. Alternatively, you may proactively contact the winning supplier to re-enroll your new account in the aggregation program at the original rate for the duration of the term.
What if I have a photovoltaic or solar panel system?
Having a solar system does not preclude you from participating. However, these account holders need to consult their electric supplier since they may be subject to specific requirements in order to maintain the benefits associated with their solar systems. These account holders must contact the supplier to opt into the program should they wish to participate.
Is there any impact to my utility by using an Alternative Retail Electricity Supplier? Will my utility penalize me for switching?
No, as a result of electricity deregulation law enacted in 1997 in Illinois, utilities no longer own electric generation assets, i.e., the supply of power was opened up to competition and the utility derives no revenue from that supply, only the delivery of supply. Customers may choose from an array of competitive electricity suppliers. Ameren will still deliver those supplies through its wires and respond to emergencies, should they arise, regardless of where those supplies are purchased. Purchasing your electric supply from a company other than your utility is purely an economic decision and has no impact on the reliability or safety of your service.
Who do I call if there is an outage or issues with my electric bill?
All service and billing questions will continue to be directed to Ameren at (800) 755-5000. Ameren Illinois provides the delivery services for your electricity, delivering the electricity to your home or small business, and is responsible for service and reliability issues, regardless of the electric supplier you choose.
I am currently receiving offers from suppliers promising lower electricity rates. What should I do?
Alternative retail energy suppliers are extremely active in Illinois. There are any number of supply offers circulating. When evaluating, consumers are strongly advised to read the complete contract fine print and have a clear understanding of any termination penalties, along with rate details, before agreeing to purchase electricity from a third party supplier.
What happens at the end of the Municipal Aggregation supply contract term?
Good Energy will again work with your municipal officials to obtain renewal pricing. Similar to the original process, eligible customers will be given the opportunity to opt out. Upon completion of the municipal aggregation program, participants will revert back to default utility energy supply.
How can I get more information about Municipal Aggregation?
Your municipality, along with Good Energy, will conduct various public meetings and information sessions that will take place through, and following bid day. Please check for announcements from your municipality and your local news outlets. Your municipal website will feature all materials related to the municipal aggregation program as they become available. You may also call an Central & Southern Illinois Municipal Aggregation representative at (844) MUNIAGG (686-4244), or go to Plug In Illinois for additional information.
How are electricity supply rates set by my utility?
Supply rates are established as a result of a series of power procurement purchases made annually by the Illinois Power Agency (IPA). These procurements are scheduled at specific times of the year. Although this standardizes the procurement process, it both prevents the IPA from taking advantage of favorable energy market conditions while requiring the agency to procure during potentially unfavorable times. ARES are not bound by the same procurement requirements, enabling them to take advantage of favorable market conditions, while avoiding those which are unfavorable. This, combined with the leverage which comes from bulk-purchasing, is how savings are provided when compared to Ameren rates. Additionally, Ameren’s rates are set annually, so customers taking their electric supply from the utility have no way to hedge against expected future cost increases. The utility is under no obligation to notify customers of rate increases.
Good Energy explains Municipal Aggregation at the 2013 DNV GL (previously KEMA) Energy Conference
The DNV KEMA Executive Energy Conference is the energy industry’s premiere event focused on key business and policy issues within the energy field. The 24th Annual Conference was held March 25-27, 2013. Managing Partner of Good Energy, Charles de Casteja, was asked to present on panels and discuss Municipal Aggregation. This is a seven-part series on the event.
Good Energy at KEMA Part 1: A Proven Company in a Bourgeoning Field
Good Energy at KEMA Part 2: Poised for Massive Expansion
Good Energy at KEMA Part 3: Municipal Energy Aggregation is Good Government
Good Energy at KEMA Part 4: Serious Savings in Illinois
Good Energy at KEMA Part 5: Municipal Energy Aggregation – A Decision Made by Communities
Good Energy at KEMA Part 6: Get Involved Early and Set a Clear Message
Good Energy at KEMA Part 7: A Look Ahead to the Future of Municipal Aggregation
Who is Good Energy, L.P.?
Good Energy, L.P. is an energy consulting firm and national leader in the design and implementation of municipal aggregation programs. Good Energy is the retained municipal aggregation consultant for over 200 communities across the country and currently has 154 active aggregations in Illinois, comprised of over 300,000 households and businesses. Good Energy has partnered with your municipality to design and operate this program.