Renewable energy fuels Wilmette debate

May 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

With Wilmette looking to find a new electricity supplier, some residents want the lowest rate possible, but others are willing to pay slightly more for an environmentally friendly option.

Residents will save money in either scenario, experts said. But the average Wilmette homeowner would pay about $1 to $2 per month extra as part of a contract with a company that requires 100 percent renewable energy, as opposed to the state minimum of 7 percent, said Wilmette Village Manager Tim Frenzer.

In 2009, state legislators deregulated the electrical supply and gave residents and local agencies the chance to opt out of Commonwealth Edison’s supply as a group and buy power from alternative companies. Wilmette voters, like those in dozens of other municipalities, approved a referendum measure in March to allow its municipal government to seek bids. The village entered an agreement with Kenilworth to jointly seek electricity providers.

Go Green Wilmette, a local nonprofit environmental organization, is trying to persuade village leaders to choose at least a 50 percent renewable energy requirement, with a “strong recommendation” for the 100 percent option, said Trudy Gibbs, a member of the organization’s board of directors.

She said the extra $1 per month per household is “an insignificant amount” to ask of residents for a more sustainable approach to energy and to wean the town from traditional fossil-fuel energy providers.

But not everyone agrees that it’s worth the extra money. Resident Tim Madden emailed village trustees recently to oppose Go Green Wilmette’s lobbying effort.

“I am writing to you to express my opposition to this stipulation and urge you to (base your) decision on monetary and quality of service factors,” Madden wrote. “If this stipulation is to be pursued, then I believe the referendum should be put to the voters again as the original referendum did not include this objective.”

Evanston’s City Council recently approved a 100 percent renewable program, with a caveat that energy credits are purchased from companies in Illinois or neighbor states in order to support local jobs.

When Wilmette seeks bids from electric providers, it will ask for pricing for an array of options, Frenzer said. A choice won’t be made until next month.

jhuston@tribune.com

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