Voters in the March 20 election approved the two referendum questions placed on the ballot, one by the City and one by the trustees of Evanston Township. Even before the election, the City had the next step toward electricity aggregation in mind: Proceed to operation and governance. There is no clear road, however, to dissolving Evanston Township.

The Road to Township Dissolution

By almost two to one, voters in Evanston Township approved the advisory question asking whether the Township trustees should continue to pursue ways to dissolve the Township of Evanston. The vote was Yes: 66.94 percent No: 33.06 percent.

Pre-election debates and discussion might not have predicted such a decisive outcome. Those who favored retaining the Township said they feared the services provided by the Township – help with personal property tax appeals and financial and other support services to certain qualified individuals – would not be adequately provided by another entity if the Township were dissolved.

Among the reasons from those who said they supported dissolution were that the Township government is top-heavy and that its functions could be absorbed by the City and its services provided more cheaply there.

The City’s aldermen serve as Township trustees; registered voters in the township are called electors. In December, the Township trustees approved a bifurcated effort to pursue dissolution of Evanston Township. One aspect was to place the advisory referendum question on the March 20 ballot, and the other was to seek legislative help in Springfield to clarify the process to dissolve a township.

A small group of electors convened a special Township meeting to voice their objections to the referendum question. A formal objection by elector Padma Rao was filed with the County Clerk’s office too late, said City and Township Clerk Rodney Greene, so the question remained on the ballot.

In the interim, State Senator Jeff Schoenberg responded to the trustee’s plea for help by drafting legislation that has not yet been considered by the General Assembly. Under Sen. Schoenberg’s bill, the Evanston Township trustees would be able to place on the November general election ballot a binding referendum question about dissolving Evanston Township. Other pieces of Sen. Schoenberg’s legislation would give the City of Evanston authority to assume the functions of Evanston Township, if the Township were dissolved.

Sen. Schoenberg’s proposed legislation differs from the state’s Township Code, which provides a process to dissolve an entire township organization established in a county (which is composed of many townships). The Township Code does not provide a process to dissolve a single township.

How the Township trustees will proceed to dissolve the township in light of the referendum results and the present state of the law is unclear.

The Path to Electricity Aggregation

Evanston was one of about 300 municipalities in Illinois to approve electricity aggregation in the March 20 election. Here, 73 percent of the voters approved the question authorizing the City of Evanston to become an aggregator of electric power and purchase it in bulk on behalf of multiple users. These electricity users will be residential and small-business customers who do not opt out of the program.

Since customers will continue to use ComEd’s infrastructure, ComEd will be responsible for maintenance. In addition, since the aggregation program is only for the purchase of power, ComEd will still bill for delivery of power, late charges and monthly service fees.

The City says it will obtain quote rates for the following energy mixes: lowest price mix, 75 percent renewable and 100% renewable. Renewable energy will be governed by Illinois standards and will be offset by renewable-energy credits and will be Green e-certified. (See related story online at evanstonroundtable.com.)

The next steps are deciding upon how to operate and govern the electricity-aggregation program and selecting a supplier of electricity. Two meetings are scheduled for next week. The first meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on April 3 in room 2200 of the Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., and the second one at 7 p.m. on April 4 in the Linden Room of the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave.

On April 10, the City Council will consider full authorization of the aggregation program and adoption of the plan of operation and governance. After the program has been adopted, the City will conduct a competitive bidding process to select an alternative supplier and seek a cheaper, and possibly cleaner, energy supply than is currently available through ComEd.

City Acts Quickly to Implement Electricity Aggregation

City Acts Quickly to Implement Electricity Aggregation

Less than a week after the results of the community choice aggregation referendum were tallied showing overwhelming – more than 75 percent – support, City staff presented Council with a proposed implementation program on March 26. After community input at two state-mandated meetings, the plan will appear before Council on April 10. Thereafter, firm bids from energy producers will be obtained and a decision made.

Leading up to the referendum, City staff preemptively pre-qualified three energy producers and obtained representative pricing based upon different mixes of sustainable and traditional energy. According to the staff memo presented on March 26, 100 percent renewable energy would cost about 3.3 percent more than the cheapest available pricing if prices hold through the firm bid process. Annual savings, based upon an annual supply-portion power bill of $700, should be between $285 and $300 subject to final pricing and depending on the renewable mix. Energy prices are highly volatile, the memo added, and prices could change up until the moment a firm bid has been accepted.

About two dozen citizens appeared to urge Council to pursue the 100 percent renewable option. Speaker after speaker argued in favor, saying that the City’s commitment to sustainability allowed no other choice. When the matter came to a vote, Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd ward, agreed. She asked for an amendment that would “affirmatively direct staff to purchase 100% renewable energy.” No other energy mix should be considered, she said.

 

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, first stated that he supported aggregation, but called the 100- percent-renewable option akin to “buying the right to say [we’re] purchasing renewable energy. … It bothers me because when I flip the switch I’m still getting power from coal and nuclear [sources]. … I don’t want to be congratulating ourselves too much.” Buying renewable energy means that the energy purchased enters the “grid” and some point along the chain, but does not necessarily come to Evanston. “Our power comes from nearby coal and nuclear power plants, but it is offset, in theory, by renewable energy generated elsewhere,” he added.

 

Ald. Wynne continued to push for her amendment, supported by a second from Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, saying the City should not even seek bids for anything other than 100% renewable energy. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, proposed that Council issue a statement of support for 100 percent renewable, but said it was premature to mandate such before public hearings on the topic. “The purpose of a public hearing is to hear from the public,” she said.

“We owe an obligation to the citizens who turned out to vote, regardless of our personal preference,” said Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward. A requirement that energy be 100 percent  renewable was no included in the referendum itself, she said, and therefore it would not be right to force that option without public input into the decision.

 

Director of Utilities Dave Stonebeck added another reason for keeping options open, saying, “to restrict ourselves to a narrow band [100 percent renewable] would probably hurt us in bidding ability. … I recommend that we do not lock ourselves in.”

 

Ald. Wynne ultimately moved to withdraw her motion. “I would second that,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward. The draft implementation program will head to public meetings unaltered. Meetings are set for Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. in room 2200 at the Civic Center and Wednesday, April 4, at 7:00 pm in the Linden Room at the Levy Center.

 

By Shawn Jones

 

Less than a week after the results of the community choice aggregation referendum were tallied showing overwhelming – more than 75 percent – support, City staff presented Council with a proposed implementation program on March 26. After community input at two state-mandated meetings, the plan will appear before Council on April 10. Thereafter, firm bids from energy producers will be obtained and a decision made.

 

Leading up to the referendum, City staff preemptively pre-qualified three energy producers and obtained representative pricing based upon different mixes of sustainable and traditional energy. According to the staff memo presented on March 26, 100 percent renewable energy would cost about 3.3 percent more than the cheapest available pricing if prices hold through the firm bid process. Annual savings, based upon an annual supply-portion power bill of $700, should be between $285 and $300 subject to final pricing and depending on the renewable mix. Energy prices are highly volatile, the memo added, and prices could change up until the moment a firm bid has been accepted.

About two dozen citizens appeared to urge Council to pursue the 100 percent renewable option. Speaker after speaker argued in favor, saying that the City’s commitment to sustainability allowed no other choice. When the matter came to a vote, Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd ward, agreed. She asked for an amendment that would “affirmatively direct staff to purchase 100% renewable energy.” No other energy mix should be considered, she said.

 

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, first stated that he supported aggregation, but called the 100- percent-renewable option akin to “buying the right to say [we’re] purchasing renewable energy. … It bothers me because when I flip the switch I’m still getting power from coal and nuclear [sources]. … I don’t want to be congratulating ourselves too much.” Buying renewable energy means that the energy purchased enters the “grid” and some point along the chain, but does not necessarily come to Evanston. “Our power comes from nearby coal and nuclear power plants, but it is offset, in theory, by renewable energy generated elsewhere,” he added.

 

Ald. Wynne continued to push for her amendment, supported by a second from Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, saying the City should not even seek bids for anything other than 100% renewable energy. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, proposed that Council issue a statement of support for 100 percent renewable, but said it was premature to mandate such before public hearings on the topic. “The purpose of a public hearing is to hear from the public,” she said.

“We owe an obligation to the citizens who turned out to vote, regardless of our personal preference,” said Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward. A requirement that energy be 100 percent  renewable was no included in the referendum itself, she said, and therefore it would not be right to force that option without public input into the decision.

 

Director of Utilities Dave Stonebeck added another reason for keeping options open, saying, “to restrict ourselves to a narrow band [100 percent renewable] would probably hurt us in bidding ability. … I recommend that we do not lock ourselves in.”

 

Ald. Wynne ultimately moved to withdraw her motion. “I would second that,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward. The draft implementation program will head to public meetings unaltered. Meetings are set for Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. in room 2200 at the Civic Center and Wednesday, April 4, at 7:00 pm in the Linden Room at the Levy Center.