A public meeting to educate Vandalia and Fayette County residents about an April 9 referendum that promises to lower their electrical rates drew very little interest.
In fact, only eight people attended that meeting, and one of those found out that he would not be eligible for lower rates.
On the April 9 ballot, voters in Fayette County and county communities will vote on municipal electrical aggregation referendums.
Last Thursday’s meeting for residents of Vandalia and unincorporated areas of Fayette County was held by Good Energy, a consultant who has signed agreements with the city and county to educate those residents of the county about municipal electrical aggregation.
Should the referendum pass, Good Energy has also pledged to lead those two entities through the process of joining with others who approve referendums on April 9.
Steve Bryant of Good Energy presented information on electrical aggregation, explaining that this is Good Energy’s third go-around with the process of joining entities together to buy electricity.
Included in this round are more than 50 communities and 125,000 households.
Others holding referendums on April 9 include Centreville, Greenville, Alstadt, Fairview Heights, Bond County, Pierron, Pocahontas, Noble, Venice and East St. Louis, as well as Danville and Bloomington.
Bryant said that after this election, barring the defeat of numerous referendums, Good Energy will be “the largest aggregation (group) in the U.S.
“What this does is give you buying power,” Bryant said, explaining that in the first two rounds, Good Energy negotiated with electricity providers for substantially lower rates.
In the first round, for example, customers who had been paying 6.2 cents per kilowatt hour had their rate reduced to 3.98 cents per kwh.
“It became very clear to us that this was the wave of the future,” Bryant said.
In the first round, he said, Good Energy took in about 17 percent of Ameren’s “footprint.” After the second round, it took in about 21 percent.
After this election, Good Energy will have as much of two-thirds of Ameren’s coverage area.
Bryant currently serves as the mayor of Bethalto, and he will step down from that position after the April 9 election. He will be working for Good Energy, which he learned about as his community was considering a municipal aggregation referendum.
Through that process, Bryant said, he called numerous communities in Ohio that had already gone through the process.
“I couldn’t find a community that wasn’t pleased,” he said.
If the referendum passes, Good Energy will negotiate with energy providers who submit bids, with bids being opened simultaneously in numerous municipalities.
Bryant said that in the process of coming to terms with an electrical supplier, Good Energy makes sure that the provider with the best bid can “team with Ameren and work out billing, carry the customer service load and can accept the large (amount of) power needed for this aggregation … and maintain the quality that we need,” Bryant said.
In those cities and counties where the referendum passes, Good Energy will sit down with those government leaders to work out aggregation agreements.
In those discussions, Bryant said, they will, among other things, make sure that the boundaries for the aggregation area are correct.
Also, he said, they will work to make sure that there are people who are not within those boundaries who will receive the lower electrical rates.
Bryant explained that while everyone who lives within the boundaries of Vandalia and Fayette County can vote on April 9, all of them are not eligible to be a part of the aggregation group and receive the lower rates.
In talking with the city and county officials, Good Energy will negotiate not only the electrical rate, but the length of the contract for that rate.
“We are going to recommend whatever makes the best sense as to the term of the contract,” he said. “The election gives the municipalities the power to decide” for residents.
As that contract expires, Good Energy will again seek bids.
Bryant emphasized that residents cannot expect to receive the same kind of discount on their rates on top of those initial discounts. While seeking to get lower rates, Good Energy has a goal of maintaining the discount received in that first contract.
“Now, you’re looking at a 20-30-percent savings,” Bryant said. “After that (first contract), there won’t be that kind of savings (on top of the initial savings).”
Bryant said that those entities that approve a referendum will be entitled to receive a 1-percent stipend as part of the process. Officials from each entity will decide whether to take those funds and use them for some municipal project, or apply the amount to the savings given to residents.
Both Vandalia Mayor Rick Gottman and Fayette County Board Chairman Steve Knebel said the city and county would not take that 1-percent amount.
Bryant said he is often questioned about the validity of electric aggregation. His answer is that the issue has been on the front pages of newspapers since its inception.
“If this did not work, those would be front-page stories,” Bryant said.