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Kane County eyeing another try at electric referendum

Permissive legislatiIllinois General Assembly adoptilocal referendum March 2012 gave municipalities authority aggregate electricity open market instead being restricted using only

Permissive legislation in the Illinois General Assembly and the adoption of a local referendum in March 2012 gave municipalities the authority to aggregate electricity on the open market instead of being restricted to using only ComEd. | File

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Updated: December 22, 2012 10:24PM

A Kane County energy aggregation referendum that narrowly lost last March could make its way back on to the ballot as soon as the April election.

The referendum is similar to the one that 466 public bodies in Illinois – including Aurora, Elgin and several other towns in Kane County – have now passed. It is designed to save residents money by giving the public bodies the ability to shop for a more affordable energy supplier for their residents.

“We are buying in bulk and that would allow the resident to receive a better rate,” said Karen Kosky, the county’s manager of resource and conservation programs.

The referendum would cover any resident of unincorporated Kane County who does not currently benefit from low cost energy through a passed referendum. There are currently 20 public bodies in Kane County that have passed an energy aggregation referendum.

The referendum failed in Kane County 4,228 to 4,021 last spring, but Kosky attributed part of that defeat to the fact that the county did little public education before the item went up for election.

Kosky said the county would be able to implement a public education plan that allowed residents to understand that the referendum might be a chance for them to save money on their energy bill. They are also given opportunities to opt out of the aggregation program if the referendum passed.

The ability to place the item on the April 2013 ballot also hinges on the way legislation is written. State legislation says that public bodies which have run a referendum and lost are required to wait 23 months before they can place another referendum on the ballot, according to Kosky. But she said County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen planned to seek an exemption for Kane.

The exemption would need to come fast in order to beat a Jan. 22 deadline to put the item on the spring ballot. The county would also need full board approval in January to place the item on the ballot.

If the item passed referendum, the county would then hold public hearings on the implementation and opt-out processes for residents.

There would then be a competitive bid for the electric supplier.

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