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The power of choosing a retail electricity supplier

In 1997, the Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law restructured the state's electric service industry to allow a choice of electric suppliers. This deregulation of electricity means that energy prices are not regulated in Illinois, and consumers are not forced to receive supply from their utility. Therefore, you have the option to choose how much you pay for power, who you purchase from and what kind of power (renewable, fossil fuels, etc.) you receive for your home or business.

Shopping around for energy can reduce your overall rate, saving you money on your electricity bill. However, choosing an electricity supply company can be confusing. If you do not choose another electric supplier, you will still receive electricity through your local utility. Here are some tips to help you choose an electric or natural gas supplier:

• Verify what kind of power you're buying. You can purchase standard coal or nuclear power, a blend of these with a percentage of renewable energy or even pure renewable energy.

• Check all terms of the retail supplier agreement. Check the length and terms of the contract, as well as any early termination fees.

• Know how you will be billed. You may end up with two bills -- one from your retail supplier for the cost of energy and one from Ameren Illinois for standard distribution charges. Even though you're buying power from a retail provider, your utility still maintains the delivery infrastructure.

• Take time to compare prices. Make sure to also consider your primary utility's rate, as well as any energy co-ops in your area.

Switching is easy, and it can just take a few clicks of your mouse. If you have questions, please call us or visit www.pluginillinois.org to search your options in Central Illinois.

The Illinois Green Business Association is a nonprofit organization in Champaign that offers certification and green business services. You can contact the IGBA via their website at www.illinoisGBA.org or call them at 217-531-2179.

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