Council chambers join for energy buyout

By Matt Daray


For the first time, multiple southern Illinois Chambers of Commerce came together in support of one thing; better energy rates for everyone.

Ten area chambers of commerce announced Wednesday that they’re working with Ameren Energy and the Affordable Gas and Electricity to gain bulk buying power on energy. By doing so, these chambers would be able to secure cheaper energy deals for businesses and individuals who would not have the opportunity to negotiate these deals on their own. The deal is based off of a pilot program the chambers started last fall including Carbondale, Carterville, Centralia, Herrin, Jefferson County, Lawrence County, Marion, Murphysboro, Salem and West Frankfort.


Brandon Bullard, executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, said the deal started to take shape based on the experience the Chambers had with Affordable Gas and Electricity on the pilot program.

“Our experience and partnership with AGE has been a very positive one, not only for the service we’ve provided to our membership but the quality of service AGE has provided to us and our members who’ve opted in,” he said.

Bullard said it is beneficial for more Chambers from local areas to join the group as well because it will allow for additional savings for cities, businesses and residents through the bulk rate.

Jeff Haarmann, managing partner for Affordable Gas and Electric, said his company chose Ameren Energy to be the exclusive pricing partner because they are a southern Illinois company and because of their success in the area.

“They have been wildly successful in winning our commercial accounts in general,” he said. “They are one of the most competitive suppliers in the area; I think they pride themselves on maintaining their home footprint.”

Haarmann said the buyout does have regulations in order for individuals or businesses to join. He said those seeking to join must be a member of the Chamber of Commerce, must be in the Ameren or ComEd utility service territory, and individuals who are already with an electric supplier must have their contracts expire before the year’s end.

Haarmann said individuals looking to join the group can find forms to join the buyout group at their respective Chamber of Commerce’s website. He said the form must be turned in by May 31 in order to join the initial buyout group.


Les O’Dell, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, said this is the first time all of these Chambers have worked together. He said the buyout deal will provide each community with vast amounts of savings.

“We anticipate that through this program that our members who opt in will save in a collective, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions of dollars on their annual power, in the collective group,” he said. “That occurs through the advantages of buying as a big group.”

O’Dell said this deal will apply to small-and-middle sized businesses, but large businesses may have the opportunity to join the buyout group as well. He said the money saved from this buyout is a win-win because it allows people to save money and use it toward buying from local businesses.

Joni Barwick, executive director of the Marion Chamber of Commerce, said this buyout shows how well the Chambers can work together to provide businesses and individuals lower living costs.

“Pulling together a large group to make a purchase of energy will save drastic dollars for our small and mid-sized business owners,” she said. “This also speaks about the union that has brought together all these Chambers in southern Illinois in working together and providing these benefits for, pretty much, everybody in the southern Illinois region.”