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Special Report: Municipal aggregation protecting customers from high prices–but what happens when the contracts end?

About 8 out of 10 electricity deals negotiated by communities across Illinois are saving residents money at a time of spiking energy prices. But dozens of those contracts, most in the central and southern parts of the state, are ending in December or January, exposing customers to higher power prices–for some nearly triple what they’ve been paying, according to a CUB review of state data. 

CUB says electric customers who are on Illinois’ 401 community power deals (also called “municipal aggregation”) should learn how long their contract lasts, and educate themselves on their options once the deal ends.    

Municipal Aggregation is when local leaders negotiate with an alternative supplier in hopes of securing a better electricity rate for the residents of that community. A local government has to obtain approval to launch a municipal aggregation program through a referendum. Once the program is OK’d and local leaders negotiate a deal with a supplier, most residents are entered into the offer automatically, unless they opt-out. The contracts are typically one to three years. 

See if your community has a municipal aggregation deal at the state of Illinois’ electric competition website, Plug In Illinois.

Savings are not guaranteed, but municipal aggregation has been a much safer bet than supplier offers marketed over the phone and door-to-door. Those supplier marketing methods have proven problematic and have cost consumers millions of dollars. In contrast, municipal aggregation has been the most consumer-friendly form of electric competition in Illinois. 

The fact that so many municipal aggregation customers have been saving money in the six months since power prices skyrocketed for both ComEd and Ameren on June 1 is largely the result of timing. Those community deals were negotiated before the energy markets were thrown into turmoil due to a number of factors, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

And we don’t know how long the Ameren and ComEd power prices will remain elevated. It’s possible some long-term municipal aggregation deals won’t be saving consumers money in the future. 

Here’s a summary of what CUB’s review of Plug In Illinois found, as of December: 

Ameren Territory

  • All 222 active municipal aggregation deals were beating Ameren Illinois’ price. 
  • Seventy deals were set to expire in December or January. 
  • The community deals were charging an average rate of 5.27 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Compare that with Ameren, the utility, which was charging more than double the average rate (12.236 cents per kWh) for the first 800 kWh of usage. (Ameren charges a lower rate, 9.777 cents per kWh, for usage beyond 800 kWh.)  
  • The prices charged by these community deals ranged from a low of 4.19 cents per kWh to 8.42 cents per kWh. The seven communities (Ashmore, Camargo, Charleston, Effingham, Mattoon, Neoga and Paris) with the lowest rate in Illinois–4.19 cents per kWh–all have their contracts ending in December. 

A Mattoon official told the media that the aggregation program will be paused and residents will be sent back to Ameren, which is charging a rate that is nearly triple what those consumers are paying now. “We were unable to secure an offer with a satisfactory combination of price and duration due to the current volatility in the market,” he said, adding that they will consider competitive offers again in the fall of 2023.

Other communities whose aggregation contracts are ending soon (January) have negotiated new contracts with suppliers. For example, Alton, Edwardsville, Mahomet and Wood River have negotiated new 22-month contracts that secure prices that currently are nearly triple the current rate, but slightly below Ameren’s price. Customers on those plans should monitor how the price compares with Ameren’s price throughout the 22-month deal.

ComEd Territory

  • Out of 179 municipal aggregation deals, 114 were beating ComEd’s supply rate. Another 65 claimed to match ComEd’s price.   
  • Only three offers are ending in the next six months, including two in December (Naperville Township and Wheatland Township). 35 are ending August through December of 2023. We don’t know what ComEd will be charging after June 1, 2023.  
  • The 114 offers beating the utility price charged an average of 6.22 cents per kWh, about 36 percent lower than ComEd’s supply price of 9.765 cents per kWh. 
  • Aside from the offers that claimed to match ComEd’s price, the municipal aggregation deals ranged from 5.158 cents per kWh (JoDaviess County, contract ending in May 2024), to the highest at 8.79 cents per kWh (Seneca, ending Oct. 31, 2025). Naperville Township is an example of a community whose aggregation contract (6.988 cents per kWh) ends in December. The township has inked a new deal with a supplier that secures a rate of 9.6 cents per kWh–nearly 40 percent higher, but lower than ComEd’s current price–for 23 months.
  • 18 community power deals offered a standard rate and also a  “green” electricity rate. Those renewable energy deals averaged 6.162 cents per kWh.

Some tips from CUB:

So what do I do if I’m on a municipal aggregation plan?

Nothing, if you’re on a plan that’s saving you money. Check PlugInIllinois.org or contact your local government to confirm the rate you are paying with municipal aggregation, and if it’s lower stay on it for as long as you can during this high-priced time. 

Keep an eye on Ameren and ComEd supply prices to make sure your aggregation deal is still solid. The utility prices will change again on June 1, 2023. Local governments also publicize the price changes.

Also, if you’re interested in Community Solar, you may want to wait to sign up for such a deal until your municipal aggregation offer is over. Read our Community Solar shopping tips with important information about municipal aggregation.  

What do I do if my municipal aggregation contract is ending?

First of all, find out if your community is negotiating a new aggregation deal, or if it’s sending everyone back to your utility. If your community is negotiating a new offer, find out what the new rate is and how it compares to your utility rate.  

WARNING: Beware of anyone coming to your door claiming that they will sign you up for a municipal aggregation contract. Nobody affiliated with the aggregation program will do that. If somebody does come to your door they are representing another alternative supplier trying to sign you up for an offer that has nothing to do with municipal aggregation. CUB has seen complaints across the state of certain sales representatives using this scheme to sign people up for potentially bad deals. If you show your electric bill to somebody at your door, they could get your account number and sign you up for an offer you don’t want. 

What do I do if I’m sent back to my utility?

  •  Practice energy efficiency to reduce your overall energy consumption. That’s the most reliable way to reduce your bills. 
  • Join a Community Solar deal in your service area. Community solar allows you to enjoy the benefits of solar power (lower bills) without having to install panels on your property. Currently, all community solar deals claim to save participants money compared with the utility’s supply price, but make sure to read the fine print and check out our shopping tips. Plus, remember that the waiting list for offers can be months, even up to a year. 
  • Consider a plan to install solar panels using new state and federal incentives. 
  • See if you qualify for energy assistance. The application process for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has reopened through May 31, 2023, or until funds are exhausted. Households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for LIHEAP funding. To apply or learn more, visit www.helpillinoisfamilies.com or call the Help Illinois Families Assistance Line at 1-833-711-0374.

For more information, check out CUB’s Electricity page and Plug In Illinois’ Frequently Asked Questions on Municipal Aggregation.