Electric rates may be going up in Naperville
By Hank Beckman For The Sun November 13, 2012 9:20PM
Updated: December 19, 2012 11:34AM
Naperville has unveiled a proposal to increase electric rates by 2 percent for the next three fiscal years, beginning May 1, 2013.
Public Works-Electric Director Mark Curran presented the proposals twice, once at a Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon and again later at a City Council workshop meeting. The increase will have to be OK’d by the City Council.
The city’s new $22 million Smart Grid Initiative may prove key to future costs, if customers are willing to use the “Time of Use” feature also slated to begin May 1.
The feature would allow the customer to tailor their energy consumption to less expensive, off-peak hours. The average residential customer currently pays a monthly electric bill to the city-owned utility of about $92.
The city estimates that using the Time of Use feature would only shave a single dollar off that amount, but since it’s a new program, actual savings may vary depending on the customer and are difficult to calculate.
“It allows them (customers) to save, if they are savvy enough,” Curran said. “It may work for some customers and not for others.”
Another feature of the new system is its Demand Response Initiative that allows the customer or the city the options to pick certain times of the day when energy consumption can be reduced. The customer can choose when they want their thermostats adjusted by three to five degrees depending on when they are at home, or they can let the city pick the hours and save about $24 per year.
Curran pointed out that any customer wanting to opt out of the Time of Use feature could do so freely, but could only opt back in after one calendar year.
Curran said that Naperville had several advantages in containing energy costs in the immediate future. Currently 61 percent of Naperville’s energy, obtained through the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, comes from coal. That coal comes from two sources, the downstate Prairie State Energy Campus and Trimble County Coal Plant in Kentucky.
One advantage is that with Prairie State, the city secured a 30-year supply of coal at a fixed price. The cost of delivery and wages for personnel may rise with the cost of living, but the actual energy source price will remain constant.
Also, the majority of the facilities at both locations are already compliant with EPA regulations set to go into effect in 2018 for coal plants, city officials said.
Only small modifications to the Trimble County operation are needed, so Naperville will avoid the costs of its supplier modernizing old equipment, a cost that threatens to bankrupt other electricity-producing coal plants, they said.
Curran said there are other suppliers of energy that could beat IMEA prices, but they couldn’t guarantee the low price for more than a year.
At the workshop, Councilman Grant Wehrli pointed out that the city’s electrical lines were 90 percent underground, reflecting an added expense.
“And we’re still at a competitive edge in the marketplace,” he said by way of praising the city’s operation.
Councilwoman Judith Brodhead said that Superstorm Sandy had proved the danger inherent of not putting lines underground.