Electricity aggregation’s downside
Is the Integrys deal too good to be true?
The city’s electricity-aggregation plan takes effect in January. I’ve gathered that switching from ComEd to Integrys is supposed to save single-family homeowners $135 to $165 on bills over 15 months. Sounds too good to be true! So is there a downside?—C.M., Pilsen
Shocker: The electricity savings are for real. The city recently contracted with Integrys Energy Services to supply power through May 2014 at a cheaper rate than Commonwealth Edison. Chicagoans are automatically enrolled, and over the first 15 months of the contract, the average single-family homeowner will see an 11 percent cut on his or her bill. (ComEd will still deliver the electricity and handle outages and other service issues.)
“This contract has some of the strongest consumer protections of any electricity-aggregation deal,” says Jim Chilsen of the Citizens Utility Board, a nonprofit consumer advocate. The January 9 opt-out “deadline” just passed, but technically there’s no penalty for calling 888-802-2885 and canceling. And while the rate for the final year of the agreement will be set later, the 27-month deal requires Integrys to meet or beat ComEd’s rate. “After the contract is up, Chicagoans are going to have to do some comparison shopping to see what ComEd’s supply rate is compared to the new Integrys rate,” Chilsen says. In June 2013, ComEd’s price is expected to drop significantly.
Another potential problem: The changeover is likely to sow confusion, something alternative-electricity suppliers—and fraudsters—could seize upon in door-to-door campaigns. “The downside,” Chilsen says, “is that it’s becoming a lot more complicated to be an electricity customer in Chicago.”