Feb. 23--Most of us have been visited in the past year or so by folks pitching electricity.
Many of us have acted upon those pitches. More than 1.4 million residential customers in Illinois switched to alternative suppliers in 2012, according to a recent report by the Citizens Utility Board, the Chicago-based energy watchdog.
As many of us have learned, choosing another electric supplier doesn't mean we leave our old utility behind. In this area, you still get an Ameren bill and the utility still assesses a charge for delivering that electricity to the home.
In many cases, local governments have played the role of power brokers. Municipal aggregation is the term used when a municipality uses the collective buying power of its population to negotiate with alternative suppliers.
Peoria is just one of 467 communities in Illinois to pass a referendum to negotiate a lower electricity rate, noted the CUB report.
The good news is people, either through their town or on their own, saved money. CUB estimates that Illinois consumers saved between $92 million and $218 million on their electricity in 2012.
But while consumers saved money, CUB noted there's also been confusion since 2010 when Illinois opened the door to competition for your electric dollar.
"CUB has received troubling reports about claims made by door-to-door and telephone marketers," noted the report.
Deceptive and misleading practices require that consumers stay vigilant, urged CUB, calling for a new approach by electric suppliers.
"A major weakness in Illinois' electricity market is that companies have focused solely on the price advantage caused by relatively expensive utility contracts. That advantage is unlikely to last," warned the CUB report.
"Alternative suppliers should focus on innovative programs promoting energy efficiency, dynamic pricing and money-saving technology," proposed the consumer group.
State Farm: Is it growing or going?
Rumors were flying last week about State Farm Insurance, that bastion of Bloomington business, making a move to a major metro area outside of Illinois.
An outgoing director of a Twin Cities economic development council had told a Bloomington radio station that State Farm needed more room for expansion -- and was finding that room outside of central Illinois.
State Farm spokeswoman Holly Anderson conceded the insurance giant plans to expand operations in Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix, but stated "our company headquarters remains in Bloomington."
We'll have to keep an eye on future developments -- perhaps a discount double check down the road.
Steve Tarter is Journal Star business editor. Tarter's phone number is 686-3260, and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on pjstar.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter
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