It’s a confusing time to be an electricity consumer in the Chicago area. You are bombarded with headlines of rate hikes, phone calls from alternative suppliers (not all of which are legit), and letters from ComEd that practically take a law degree to decipher.
The root of all this? In 2010, the state allowed towns to negotiate their own deals with suppliers, a move meant to lower rates. In many cases, it did. (ComEd still delivers your electricity—and your bill—but doesn’t always supply the power.)
Now, with wholesale prices rising, alternative suppliers’ costs are increasing too, and they are trying to pass those hikes to consumers. Luckily, you’re not stuck using the supplier your town contracted, and if you’re diligent enough and have the right kind of usage, you could land a better deal on your own.
To figure out what you should do, first, find your monthly kilowatt-hours—the amount of energy you use—in the upper left section of your electricity bill. Then go through one of these scenarios:
If you live in the city in . . .
An apartment: If you use fewer than 400 kWh per month on average, switch from Integrys, the city’s contracted supplier, back to ComEd. While ComEd’s 7.6-cent rate may be higher than Integrys’s 5.3, Integrys adds a $9.06 monthly fee to your bill, meaning low-energy users may pay more.
A house: If you use more than 950 kWh per month, as estimated by the nonpartisan nonprofit utility group Citizens Utility Board, stay with Integrys (even with its $22.36 monthly fee for houses). Use fewer? Call ComEd to say you want it to be your supplier.
If you live in the suburbs . . .
Check your suburb’s current plan. Go to pluginillinois.org, the Illinois Commerce Commission site, and you can find your suburb’s current supplier rate, contract term, and any termination fees you may have to pay to opt out.
Compare rates. Browse citizensutilityboard.org, the Citizens Utility Board’s site, for a list of alternative suppliers and their rates. Watch for hidden charges such as “entry fees” and for low introductory rates that disappear. Call the listed supplier to switch if you find a better deal.
Comparing Rates Across Chicagoland
Lowest: Campton Hills
(4.4 cents per kWh)
(5.2 cents per kWh)
(8.2 cents per kWh)
For comparison: Chicago*
(5.3 cents per kWh)