Ecology Action Center cautions residents in selection of alternative energy suppliers

For immediate release
November 3, 2019
Contact: Larissa Armstrong
Phone: (309) 454-3169 x.15

The Ecology Action Center has received numerous inquiries lately regarding letters or postcards people got from Arcadia Power offering energy savings through community solar, or other renewable energy sources.  One of our roles as an energy educator in the community is to ensure residents are able to make informed choices about their energy consumption, and understand different ways to reduce energy costs through efficiency upgrades and renewable energy investment.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office has noted that the majority of residents that switch to alternative energy suppliers end up paying more for their energy.  There are a few key elements to understand and consider before signing up with an alternate energy supplier or third party energy broker.

What is an alternate energy supplier?

Illinois has a deregulated energy market, which allows alternative energy suppliers to sell energy to customers. Alternative energy suppliers are for-profit companies that sell electricity and natural gas to consumers. They offer the exact same energy that your traditional public utility provides, but they can charge higher prices because their prices are not regulated by the state. If consumers choose to receive energy from an alternate supplier, they still receive a monthly bill from Ameren and their alternate supplier is listed on the bill next to the supply rate.
Arcadia Power is not an alternate energy supplier, but instead a third party energy broker. They do not sell energy users power directly – they contract through other alternate suppliers the same way consumers or municipalities can directly.

What is municipal aggregation?

Municipal aggregation is an option for a municipality to choose an alternate energy supplier for their community. Bloomington and Normal both have municipal aggregation agreements for Ameren residents through June 2020. Through those agreements, residents receive their energy supply from MidAmerican Energy.

Renewable Energy Credits

Some alternate energy suppliers offer “green” energy through Renewable Energy Credits or RECs. MidAmerican offers a green energy option through Bloomington and Normal’s municipal aggregation program. In Bloomington, the green energy option at 5.07 cents per kWh is the default. In Normal, residents could choose from a base rate of 4.98 cents per kWh or select the green energy option at 5.07 cents per kWh.
Through green plans, the energy supplier pledges to buy RECs from a company that produces power from renewable sources, such as wind. That renewable energy producer agrees to produce and deliver an amount of renewable energy to the grid that is equal to the amount of energy you consumed. In this case, MidAmerican purchased RECs from a wind producer that generated wind electricity in Texas.

Participating in a green energy program where the supplier uses the REC system does not mean your home is being powered by renewable energy. Instead, it is an investment in renewable energy; but not necessarily an investment in renewable energy here in Illinois.

Arcadia Power is offering renewable energy through this same REC process. Any offers for community solar would also use RECs because Arcadia Power is not one of the developers that was awarded a community solar array project here in Illinois through the Illinois Power Agency’s lottery. Again, they are not a direct energy supplier, so any energy they sell you, whether renewable or not, is through another energy supplier and they are just the third party broker.

There will be options to invest in community solar in Illinois in the near future when some of the arrays that were selected through the lottery process are completed and developers begin selling subscriptions.

Community Solar

Community solar is an option for Illinois Ameren and CommEd residents to purchase subscriptions to large solar arrays operating in their utility territory. Purchasing a subscription to a community solar array will give consumers credit on their energy bill for energy produced by their portion of the solar array.

If the subscription fee consumers pay for their community solar is at a rate lower than their current electricity supply rate, investing in community solar will help them invest in renewable energy in Illinois, and reduce their energy costs at the same time.

Energy Supply Rates

Choosing alternate energy suppliers or third party brokers comes down to understanding the current price you pay for your electricity and the price the other vendors are offering.

Ameren is the default public electricity utility for Bloomington and Normal (for residents and businesses that are not in Corn Belt territory). The current Ameren rate is 4.715 cents per kWh for October through May 2020 (historically it was 4.658 from June – October 2018, 5.038 from October – May 2019, and was 4.561 from June – September 2019). As mentioned in the municipal aggregation section above, Ameren territory residents that did not opt-out of the aggregation program have paid a flat rate of 5.07 cents per kWh in Bloomington and either 4.98 cents per kWh or 5.07 in Normal depending on whether or not residents chose the green option. These rates began July 1, 2018 and end June 30, 2020.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office reported that between June of 2014 and May of 2018, customers in Illinois overpaid for alternative electricity by over $600 million.
Regardless of what salespeople for alternative energy suppliers tell you, you are not required to enroll with an alternative supplier. Taking no action will leave you with the supplier chosen by your municipality – which has contracted a flat rate for two year, or with your public utility (Ameren in our area) as a default – and their rates are regulated by a state agency.

The Ecology Action Center wants to help consumers understand all these elements, so if they choose to utilize offers from alternate suppliers or third party brokers, they can make the choice from an informed position, and avoid paying more for the energy supply in the long run.


EAC seeks nominations for 2019 McLean County Green Awards


For immediate release
September 30, 2019

Contact:   Michael Brown
Phone:     (309) 454-3169 x.11

The Ecology Action Center presents the annual McLean County Green Awards to recognize local efforts to improve our environment.  Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 awards, with recipients being named in November at the EAC’s annual fall event, the Sustainable Gourmet.

The McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award identifies businesses, schools or organizations with outstanding recycling programs or waste reduction efforts or individuals who have played a role in a successful program or effort. While nominations will be accepted for any recycling or waste reduction project, areas of growing interest include source reduction efforts, especially alternatives to single use items (plastic or paper grocery bags,

The Anne McGowan Making a World of Difference Award recognizes outstanding projects, activities, or individuals in McLean County who promote environmental awareness or natural resource conservation. The EAC dedicated the World of Difference Award in memory of McGowan, an early director of the EAC, due to her ability to inspire and motivate others to take action.  Former EAC Executive Director Michelle Covi described Anne as a catalyst for action.

She was energetic and never hesitated to get her hands dirty. Her natural curiosity and love of the natural world fueled her passion for wildlife exploration and preservation. She shared her love with children and adults alike when she conducted nature walks, wildflower walks, and nature programs. She inspired and nurtured life-long dedication to environmental awareness and conservation in children, college students, and adults whose lives she touched.

In the spirit of Anne, the EAC seeks nominations of worthy projects, organizations, or individuals in nomination for the Anne McGowan Making World of Difference Award or the McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award. Current EAC Executive Director Michael Brown suggested, “if more of us followed the outstanding example set by Anne McGowan, the world would be a much better place.”

Nominations may be made online at or by stopping by the Ecology Action Center at 202 W College Avenue in Normal; all submissions are due by Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 5 p.m. The recipients of the 2019 awards will be named at the EAC’s annual Sustainable Gourmet event on Thursday, November 14, 2019. 

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

2018 McLean County recycling rate continues upward trend, reaches new all-time high

McLean County’s recycling rate increased for the third year in a row in 2018. The Ecology Action Center’s annual calculation of community-wide waste generation and recycling shows that the County reached a recycling rate of 46% with an increase of 4.5% from 2017. As a result, the County maintained progress made in 2016 in breaking the previous community-wide recycling goal of 40% while also making progress towards the new community-wide recycling rate goal of 50% set in 2017 under the new 20-year solid waste management plan.

No single category of recyclable materials saw significant fluctuations from the year prior, while there were minor fluctuations across the board in all material streams. However, a likely contributing factor to the improved recycling rate is an improvement in the quality of data received by the EAC by local entities. Annually, as part of the waste and recycling rate calculations, EAC staff is working to improve the process and reduce the opportunity for errors or omissions.

Total MSW Recycled (tons)85,19681,30283,33488,45994,803
Total MSW Landfilled (tons)141,068154,662120,815124,364109,467
Total Municipal Solid Waste Generated (tons)226,264235,964204,150211,230204,271
Recycling Rate37.7%34.5%40.8%41.9%46.4%

With the closure of the McLean County Landfill in late 2018, the Ecology Action Center continues to focus on waste management priorities as outlined in the Twenty-Year Materials Recovery and Resource Management Plan for McLean County, Bloomington, and Normal, Illinois. This includes diversion strategies for waste that would otherwise require landfill disposal further away from the source of origin.

The Ecology Action Center annually collects waste and recycling data to calculate the amount of municipal solid waste generated and recycled for all of McLean County as a lagging indicator of the impact of local recycling and outreach programs. Among other services, the EAC acts as the solid waste agency for Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County and provides technical assistance, recycling promotion, household hazardous waste coordination, education and outreach.

Information on residential recycling, recycling of nontraditional materials, and information on disposal of household hazardous wastes is available by calling (309) 454-3169 or visiting

Municipal Electric Aggregation and Renewable Energy Credits

Did you get this letter in the mail? MidAmerican letter about RECs

This letter is from your electric supplier informing you where they used the renewable energy credits (RECs) they purchased as part of your green energy supply plan. The Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington went through an electric aggregation process for everyone in their municipalities serviced by Ameren. Both the City and the Town chose MidAmerican as the alternative energy supplier through June 2020. Everyone in Bloomington and Normal that gets their electricity bill from Ameren has MidAmerican as their energy supplier unless they opted out of the program.

MidAmerican offers a “green” energy option. In Bloomington, everyone has the green energy option at 5.07 center per kWh. In Normal, residents could choose from a base rate of 4.98 cents per kWh or select the green energy option at 5.07 cents per kWh.

With green plans, the energy supplier pledges to buy RECs from a company that produces power from renewable sources, such as wind. That renewable energy producer agrees to produce and deliver an amount of renewable energy to the grid that is equal to the amount of energy you consumed. In this case, MidAmerican purchased RECs from a wind producer that generated wind electricity in Texas. That is what this letter is telling you.

Getting energy from a supplier with this green option is an investment in renewable energy; however, it is generally not local.

There are many options for energy supply and energy production, and right now, in Illinois the renewable energy market is growing due to the Future Energy Jobs Act. The Ecology Action Center is here to help you make sense of all the options available to you, so please reach out if you have questions about electrical aggregation, alternate energy suppliers, community solar, or rooftop solar. Contact Larissa Armstrong at 309-454-3169 x15.

Ecology Action Center launches HHW Fund Campaign for a fall 2019 McLean County Household Hazardous Waste Collection; private donations needed to reach goal


Contact: Michael Brown, (309) 454-3169 x.11
For immediate release: June 17, 2019

With early support from numerous local partners and sponsors, the Ecology Action Center (EAC) is optimistic about a local hazardous waste collection in the near future. Illinois Farm Bureau® (IFB), Compeer Financial, Rivian Automotive, Republic Services, Henson Disposal and Recycling, and Area Disposal Services have all pledged their support for the tentative fall 2019 McLean County Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection event. These entities join the City of Bloomington, McLean County, and the Town of Normal as part of a unique public-private partnership led by the EAC.

“We are one of only a handful of Illinois communities stepping up to provide for HHW collection in the absence of reliable Illinois EPA funding and the only community anywhere that I am aware of that provides this service through a combination of public and private funding,” said Michael Brown, Executive Director of the Ecology Action Center. “We encourage all local residents to donate to the McLean County HHW Fund and support this important effort.”

As the solid waste agency for McLean County, Bloomington, and Normal, the EAC is responsible for coordinating Household Hazardous Waste Collection for the community. However, the traditional funding for these events through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has become very irregular and infrequent. The McLean County HHW Fund was created to meet the need and has provided for three successful local HHW collections and nearly 75,000 gallons of hazardous wastes collected for safe disposal.

The EAC has set a fund raising goal for the 2019 HHW Fund of $35,000 to allow for a growing awareness of the need for proper hazardous waste disposal and related increases in attendance at the fall HHW collection. The EAC asks local residents to make tax-deductible donations at; businesses interested in sponsorship opportunities can contact Michael Brown at [email protected] or 309-454-3169 x.11.

Improper disposal of household hazardous wastes pollutes local water supplies and the environment. Whether it is thrown out with regular trash going to a municipal waste landfill, dumped illegally down the drain, storm sewer, or in a ditch, these actions compromise the safety of drinking water thereby threatening the health and well-being of area residents.
More information on hazardous waste disposal and nonhazardous waste disposal are available at or by calling 309-454-3169. Free resources include a notification email list for HHW updates, instructions on disposal of nonhazardous latex paint, suggestions on alternative (non-hazardous) products, and information on the EAC’s Yard Smart program, promoting sustainable landscaping and gardening with less synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist local residents in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment. The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

EAC seeks proposals for hazardous waste collection and disposal

The Ecology Action Center of Normal, Illinois, is soliciting proposals for a fall 2019 Household Hazardous Waste collection event for the residents of McLean County, Illinois.  Please download the full Request For Proposals (pdf) and bid sheet for completion.  Sealed proposals are due to Executive Director Michael Brown by 2 p.m. (CST) on Friday, July 12, 2019.

The Ecology Action Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental agency in McLean County, Illinois. Among other roles, the EAC acts as the community solid waste agency for the City of Bloomington, Town of Normal, and McLean County.

Expanded Recycling Options Continue to Grow in Downtown Bloomington

For immediate release
May 13, 2019
Contact: Michael Brown
Phone: (309) 454-3169 x.11

Local residents and visitors to Downtown Bloomington have access to eight new and conveniently located recycling bins in the area for the first time this summer. In early 2018, funding awarded to the Ecology Action Center (EAC) through an Illinois Prairie Foundation Grant – IPCF Annual Campaign Fund Green Endowment allowed for the installation of four permanent recycling receptacles at the four corners of the McLean County History Museum. The EAC’s partner on this project, the City of Bloomington Public Works Department, provided a match for the grant funding.

In late 2018, the EAC leveraged the success of the initial program to secure donations for the addition of four more recycling receptacles for the downtown area. Midwest Fiber, Henson Disposal & Recycling, Area Disposal, and Republic Services generously provided donations to fund the purchase and installation of four additional receptacles that have been installed in the downtown commercial district.

The nearly 90,000 visitors passing through and attending events such as the annual Farmer’s Market can now easily divert recyclable items away from the landfill with these receptacles located in areas of high pedestrian traffic. All eight receptacles accept common recyclable items that are currently accepted in Bloomington’s and Normal’s single-stream curbside recycling programs. To date, over one ton of potential waste has been diverted through the four original receptacles alone. This number is expected to increase over the coming months as other outdoor events resume and overall activity in the commercial district spikes with the arrival of more favorable outdoor weather.

This program coincides with the long-anticipated closure of the McLean County Landfill which stopped accepting waste on September 30. The landfill closure strongly reemphasizes the need for more sustainable methods of waste reduction as iterated in the updated 20-year Solid Waste Plan for McLean County. It is anticipated that a continual increase of available recycling options will help improve the County’s updated recycling rates goals over the next twenty years.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist local residents in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

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Popular Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal program returns for 2019, helps property owners lower the cost of going solar

: Larissa Armstrong 309-454-3169 x.15 or Peter Murphy 262-573-3089

The Ecology Action Center (EAC) of Normal, Illinois and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) are launching Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal, the third iteration of the successful solar group buy program. The program uses the power of volume purchasing to make solar more accessible and affordable for home, business, and farm owners throughout McLean County. “We are excited to partner with MREA again to bring the group buy back to McLean County, providing another opportunity to expand solar in our community,” said Michael Brown, Executive Director for the Ecology Action Center. “The 2016 and 2018 programs were big successes, and we are confident Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal will help our community continue to expand its renewable energy efforts.”

The Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal group buy program offers multiple free, public, one-hour informational sessions called Solar Power Hours to educate the community about the benefits of solar. Navigating the solar market can be intimidating, creating barriers for solar adoption. The Solar Power Hours answer questions about installing solar, helping reduce those barriers. “This year we’re partnering with key local organizations to help spread the word about the program and host the Solar Power Hour presentations,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Manager for the MREA. “The presentation provides folks the information they need to determine whether solar is right for them.”

The first Solar Power Hour will take place Monday, May 13 at 6:30 pm at the Bloomington Public Library at 205 East Olive Street.  Other community partners hosting Solar Power Hours include Green Top Grocery, the Children’s Discovery Museum, and the YWCA of McLean County. All four organizations are assisting with the program because educating the community about, and ensuring increased access to solar aligns with their missions.   Solar Power Hours are scheduled through the program participation deadline of September 30, 2019.  All are free and open to the public. The full Solar Power Hour schedule is available at

The Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal program enables residents to improve local energy security through the generation of renewable energy while simultaneously conserving energy and reducing long-term energy costs at their homes or businesses.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist our community in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  MREA’s mission is to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration.