The Village of Forest Park will be the first municipality in the state to exit NIMEC — a municipal electricity aggregation collaborative of more than 100 Illinois communities– if the village council agrees to hire Christopher J. Burke Engineering to be its energy consultants at the May 27 council meeting.

The meeting takes place after press time.

On the council’s agenda is an agreement to hire Burke to negotiate a renewal of the village’s electrical aggregation contract, which expires this spring.

According to Administrator Tim Gillian, Burke Engineering is branching into energy aggregation consulting. An email and phone call to John Caruso of Christopher Burke Engineering inquiring about other municipalities the company was representing were not immediately returned.

“It made the most sense to partner with the group that currently performs all of the engineering required in the village and the firm that is most familiar with all of the infrastructure,” Gillian said in an email.

Gillian added he had “no issues with NIMEC.”

The contract on the village agenda May 27 gives Burke an exclusive pact to provide the village with a list of potential energy suppliers. The contract says Burke will help the village evaluate the list and choose an energy provider for residents and small businesses in Forest Park. Burke will also help provide information to consumers via newsletter articles, water bill inserts, mailings and by speaking at public hearings. Burke will also help the village prepare an “opt-out” letter for residents and will help administer the project once a supplier is chosen.

In 2011, the Illinois General Assembly allowed municipalities to negotiate lower bulk rates with energy suppliers other than ComEd. ComEd still delivers electricity and all electric bills in the village still come from that utility. 

Voters in Forest Park passed a referendum in March, 2012 to agree to buy bulk-rate energy through the village. Negotiated by NIMEC, the switch to First Energy Solutions in May, 2012 for 4.7 cents per kilowatt/hour was predicted to save $4 million annually in Forest Park. 

A spokesperson for NIMEC (the Northern Illinois Municipal Electric Collaborative) said the collaborative has over two million consumers in 110 towns, which makes its bargaining power best in the state.

“Our rates are the most competitive in the marketplace,” said NIMEC spokeswoman Sharon Durling. Durling said in 2012 NIMEC was able to negotiate an electricity price 4.5 percent lower than any other consultant in the state.

“We have aggressive pricing and 20 years of expertise as electrical consultants,” Durling said. Durling said the Village of Forest Park had given NIMEC notice they were withdrawing from the collaborative.

Neither NIMEC nor Burke charge any fees to the village. They are paid by electricity providers. In the past, NIMEC was paid between .00025 cents and .00050 cents per kilowatt hour used. Burke Engineering offered a price of .00025 cents/kwh, Gillian said.

Durling said other municipalities had been burned by energy providers who hid pass-through charges in the fine print, or changed their rates half way through the contract. 

“There are a lot of moving parts in these contracts, and they are getting more complex all the time,” Durling said.

The neighboring Village of Oak Park had trouble with an energy consultant, Energy Choices this spring. The village is reexamining a contract with Energy Choices, which they say botched a “reverse auction” when one of the energy supplier’s bids came in with a misplaced decimal point. 

Oak Park leaders were criticized when the electricity contract ended up going to lower priced Constellation Energy, a “brown energy” provider using fossil fuels, ceasing a previous agreement with Integrys that sold “green energy” from solar and wind power. Village trustees are questioning whether the auction problems were a breach of contract.

Gillian said he had confidence in Burke Engineering.

“I am very comfortable with the customer service aspect of their proposal and I believe they will help us with all of our energy needs in the coming years,” he said.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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