Carbondale chooses green energy option

The City Council unanimously voted to enter a 100-percent renewable energy plan Wednesday night in an electrical aggregation meeting aimed to lower resident’s electricity costs.

The two-year plan was 2-percent more costly than Collinsville-based provider Homefield Energy’s base quote, which uses a state-mandated minimum 9-percent renewable energy. Despite this, residents will still see a 22-percent drop in their electric usage rates once they take effect in March.

Renewable energy is defined as any naturally occurring, theoretically inexhaustible energy source not derived from fossil or nuclear fuel. Select Energy LLC, the company that represented the group of cities in the energy aggregation process, told city manager Kevin Baity Homefield’s acceptable renewable energy sources include solar, wind, photovoltaic, landfill gas, bio-mass, hydroelectric and bio-diesel sources.

A media representative was unreachable regarding Homefield Energy’s exact uses of renewable energy by press time.

Councilman Chris Wissmann said the renewable energy plan is a cheap way to greatly impact the environment.

“I don’t see a moral or financial reason to go other than the 100-percent option,” he said.

Councilman Lance Jack said it would be irresponsible for the council not to choose the 100-percent renewable energy plan.

“Given the price difference, it clearly would make no sense for us to do anything other than to go with 100-percent renewable,” he said.

City residents who receive electricity through Ameren will automatically be added to the new program unless they choose to opt out and select a third-party electric supplier, Baity said, and customers from any other electric company can switch to the new, renewable energy plan once their contract expires without penalty.

Residential and small business rates will be 4.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is a unit of energy equal to the work performed by 1,000 watts operating for one hour. If the council chose Homefield’s 9-percent renewable energy base quote the rate would have been 4.3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The contract is projected to save about $275,000 a month for the nine communities involved with Homefield Energy which includes Marion, Chester, Elkville, Tamaroa, West Frankfort and unincorporated Perry County, Baity said.

Citing a PowerPoint presentation during Wednesday’s meeting, Baity said the supplier has also pledged to match Ameren’s electric rate should it be lowered in the future.

He said notifications on the change will be mailed to all Ameren customers this week. These letters will include contact information for residents who wish to opt out of the program. Councilman Don Monty expressed concern that these notifications may not reach all tenants because of the city’s transient population. Baity said the letters will be marked “current resident” to accommodate properties that may change tenants.

Monty also advised residents who expect a dramatic decrease in their monthly electric bill to check the bottom line of their bills, as the 22-percent cost reduction will affect only their usage rate. Taxes and other miscellaneous fees will remain intact, he said.

Baity said he expects Carbondale to be the consortium’s only city to choose the fully renewable energy option, and council member Jane Adams attributed this to the city and region’s uniqueness.

“Carbondale is different,” she said. “I think that our choice is easy tonight.”

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