Electric–power retailer gives Illinois a ‘B’ in energy

Steve Tarter
Peoria Journal Star
Feb 13, 2007

Florida–based company credits state for offering choices

PEORIA – Illinois gets a B on an energy report card offered by Liberty Energy Corp., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.– based electric–power retailer.

Illinois is moving “forward with implementing a market–based benchmark price that makes shopping for power easier,” the report noted.

Liberty credited the Illinois Commerce Commission for “progressive policies” that have opened customer choice in the state. “The ICC´s decision has attracted about a dozen new suppliers into the state, greatly expanding the breadth of products offered to small business owners,” said the report.

Liberty Power now sells power in three states and Washington, D.C., but plans to market energy in six more states, including Illinois in 2007.

“We´re in the process of entering the Illinois marketplace. We want to assist small businesses to shop when it comes to energy,” said Nelson Reyneri, Liberty Power´s vice president for government affairs and corporate communications.

“The electric power industry is transitioning from highly–regulated monopolistic utilities which provided their customers with a total package of electric services towards competitive markets in which each phase of electrical service is separate,” he said.

llinois is one of 20 states along with Washington, D.C., that gives consumers and businesses a choice when it comes to power, said Reyneri.

Earning top grades in the Liberty report were New York and Texas, both earning A–minus scores for their commitment to competition, while Maine and Massachusetts earned B–plus grades.

“In a volatile market, small businesses need to be armed with education when buying power,” said Reyneri.

Businesses have many choices to make in those states where power has been deregulated, said Paul Ring, a governmental affairs analyst for Liberty.

Different firms have varying power needs, he said. “Some companies may want to lock in a certain rate in order to manage cash flow. Others might want to follow the market. Another option is a blended plan where you float to a certain point and then lock in,” said Ring.

Despite competition, energy prices are on the rise nationally, he said. “We hope we´re not locked into ever– increasing wholesale energy prices but prices have risen from 30 to 67 percent in some states over the last few years,” said Ring.

In an effort to assist central Illinois businesses in purchasing electricity, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce recently formed a co-op to offer small firms group buying power.

“We had 145 companies participate in educational meetings held last month,” said Roberta Parks, the chamber´s chief operating officer.

That was almost twice the number chamber officials had expected, she said.

“We´ll probably be out buying electricity in early March,” said Parks, noting that the local chamber gained 20 to 25 additional members as a result of the co–op program since businesses that participate must be chamber members.

The next meeting for firms interested in joining the co–op will probably be in April, she said.

Steve Tarter can be reached at 686–3260 or starter@pjstar.com.