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Lee County board member: ‘We missed that sweet spot’

Deals for Whiteside, Lee not as favorable

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Lower electricity rates are coming to the unincorporated areas of Lee and Whiteside counties.

The county boards approved the lower rates Tuesday as part of a process known as aggregation. In April, voters in the two counties approved the procedure, which gives their boards the power to negotiate for better electricity prices.

The 1-year deals for the two counties aren’t as good as those received by towns whose voters approved aggregation before this year.

Lee County’s unincorporated residents will get a rate of 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour from Verde Energy, while Whiteside’s will be 5.1 cents per kilowatt hour from FirstEnergy.

Those rates are less than the current 8.3 cents per kilowatt hour from ComEd. Starting in June, though, that rate will drop to 5.5 cents, plus an expected half-cent adjustment.

Last year, Sterling and Amboy negotiated rates of 4.7 cents, while Morrison got a rate of 4.8 cents.

“The market has tightened up in the last few weeks,” Lee County Board member Vern Gottel, R-rural Sterling, said Tuesday. “We’re not seeing the big savings of a year or a year and a half ago. We missed that sweet spot.”

So why did Whiteside County get a better deal than Lee County?

“Whiteside County’s usage per account is a lot higher,” said Mike Mudge of Oregon-based Rock River Energy, which handled the negotiations for the counties. “There is a certain amount of fixed costs you have to overcome.”

When average usage per account rises, he said, that tends to lower the price of electricity.

One of the factors affecting Lee County is Woodhaven, a private camping resort with hundreds of lots, which have low average electricity usage, Mudge said. That, he said, drives up the price of electricity countywide under aggregation.

At the Lee County Board meeting, members approved the lower rates in a voice vote. No one voted no.

Member Bob Gibler, R-Dixon, who opposes Dixon’s efforts for aggregation, stayed silent during the voice vote. He later said aggregation isn’t working.

“The county is not going to save that much,” Gibler said in a telephone interview. “Even if they say you’ll save 50 percent over a year’s time, I want to make my own decision. If I make a stupid decision, that’s my fault.”

On Monday, the Dixon City Council approved a 2-year contract with Verde Energy for a price of 5.3 cents per kilowatt hour in the first year and 5.8 cents in the second year.

The new rates for the counties and Dixon are expected to start in the next couple of months. Residents can opt out of aggregation.

The counties will have to seek new bids for rates again next year.

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