UPDATED 5:00 p.m. | If you are considering signing up for solar energy through an alternative supplier, Ecology Action Center says "buyer beware."
EAC assistant director Larissa Armstrong said the agency has fielded lots of questions from the public about letters and postcards Arcadia Power has been mailing in Bloomington-Normal recently, pledging energy savings through solar and other renewable energy sources while offering gift cards and or a free Google Home Mini.
“Because community solar is an option in our state, alternate energy suppliers are sort of latching onto that as well and adding that as an additional marketing point to try to get people to purchase energy from them instead of whoever they have it from now,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said third-party brokers who emerged through the state's deregulation efforts often end up charging more and for fewer renewable energy credits than customers can get through their municipal supplier.
“If it’s for people that are really interested in the renewable energy investment portion, then switching, even if it saved them money, would actually mean that are investing less in renewable energy than they are with their current supplier,” Armstrong said.
Bloomington and Normal contract with Mid-American Energy Services through their aggregation programs. Mid-American buys renewable energy credits for 100% of the energy its customers consume.
The current two-year agreement runs through June 2020. Bloomington residents who didn’t opt out pay a flat rate of 5.07 cents per kwh. Normal residents pay 4.98 cents per kilowatt hour or 5.07 if they choose the green option.
Armstrong said Ameren’s current rate of 4.715 cents per kwh indicates Bloomington-Normal might be able to secure a lower rate as it seeks a new aggregation agreement next year.
The Illinois attorney general office reports Illinois customers overpaid for alternative electricity by $600 million during a recent four-year period.
A spokesperson for Arcadia said the company's smart rate feature monitors the energy market for lower rates. Arcadia since launching the program last year, the company has saved Illinois households 40% on average.
"We founded Arcadia to advocate for energy consumers and to give them easier access to clean energy and lower bills," Arcadia co-founder Kiran Bhatraju said. "This includes protecting them from, not subjecting them to, the retail energy hikes mentioned.
Residents can enroll at no charge.
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