Wilmette ponders green electricity
What: Wilmette seeks bids from power suppliers for residents
How: Bids must include four separate renewable energy level options. Evanston, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights and Palatine have already opted for contracts with 100 percent renewable energy
When: Decision expected in June
Updated: August 22, 2012 3:38AM
By the time Wilmette village trustees return to the podium on June 12, they should be able to decide what electric power supplier to choose for Wilmette residential customers.
They should also be able to decide what level of renewable energy to ask that supplier to provide: 100 percent, 50 percent, the state-mandated minimum of 7 percent, or an option allowing individual customers to go with 100 percent clean energy equivalents.
Trustees who met May 22 approved guidelines for operating Wilmette’s electrical aggregation program, officially known as the plan of governance.
Voters gave the go-ahead for the program in a March 22 referendum, authorizing Wilmette to look for electrical providers at a cheaper rate than that offered by current provider ComEd.
The plan of governance sets guidelines on fees, the length of time people will have to choose to opt out of using a new provider, and how new enrollments will be handled. They also set business standards for companies who want to win a contract with Wilmette.
But what most interested a majority of residents who turned out for May 8 and 22 hearings on the issue, was whether Wilmette would require the winning company to provide the equivalent of 100 percent renewable energy.
That decision can’t be made until after bids from potential suppliers return June 4, Village Manager Tim Frenzer said.
The proposal went out before the board approved the plan of governance, so that village administrators could get bids back, review them, and provide the information to trustees well before this summer, when residents could be using much more power, he said.
The proposal requires companies to show how much they would charge Wilmette for the four renewable energy levels.
Evanston, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights and Palatine, among other communities, have chosen to “go green” by buying choosing 100 percent option; other communities, like Skokie, Highland Park and Northbrook, have gone with the individual choice option.
Many of the roughly two dozen people who attended the May 22 hearing urged the board to choose a 100 percent option.
Resident Jan Barshis, a member of the Go Green Wilmette organization said the group has received overwhelming public support for its stand requesting a 100 percent renewable energy purchasing plan.
Resident Jack Kelly agreed, saying “I think that’s where we belong, and I think there’s a very, very strong push within this community to do what is right.”
However, some at the meeting were also as unsure as trustees were about the form renewable energy purchases would most likely take.
The term “equivalent” comes into play because Wilmette may not be able to find a supplier who can cheaply and directly supply energy generated by “clean” methods such as wind power.
Instead, companies can guarantee that they will provide the equivalent of renewable energy through the use of renewable energy credits, or RECs. Those credits subsidize renewable energy producers across the country, helping support the creation of wind, hydro other otherwise green energy, and making it market competitive.
When communities choose to use given levels of RECs, they are in effect guaranteeing that a green energy supplier is providing that much green energy somewhere in the national electric grid.
“The REC system may not be perfect,” Go Green Wilmette president said, “But it’s in place and it’s a way you can support renewable energy and lower carbon emissions.”