Electrical Aggregation To Be Decided By Voters

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Fifteen communities in Eastern and Southeast Ohio will decide on energy aggregation issues this Election Day. Energy aggregation is when electric or natural gas customers come together to form one large buyer.

Ohio is one of six states in the U.S. that currently allows electric aggregation, according to the Local Energy Aggregation Network. The other states are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Currently, 275 communities across the Buckeye State participate in electric aggregation, and another 144 areas have natural gas aggregation programs in place.

The purpose of coming together to aggregate electricity or natural gas is to hopefully lower energy rates. “[Aggregation] allows the municipality to pull together all of their residents, which effectively gives them some buying power,” says Matt Schilling, a public information officer for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).  PUCO is a state government agency that is charged with ensuring that all Ohioans are able to have affordable utilities in a competitive marketplace. 

Voters decide on what is called an opt-out aggregation program. A majority of voters must say “Yes” to the issue in either a primary or general election per Ohio law. 

The largest area voting on electric and natural gas aggregation is Scioto Township, which includes a large part of the City of Chillicothe. New Lexington and Uhrichsville residents will also decide on both electric and gas aggregation.

The City of Cambridge and the Athens County villages of Jacksonville, Trimble, and Buchtel will vote on electric aggregation only.

If the issues pass, the respective local governments will have the power to select a supplier for electric or natural gas service.

The supplier has to then send a letter to all customers that describes the terms and conditions of the energy aggregation contract. Residents will then have two to three weeks to send back a form that allows them to opt-out of the program without penalty. If residents opt-out, they will have to find their own supplier. If customers do not opt-out, they will be automatically enrolled into the program.

The automatic enrollment does not last forever, though. “The utility has [to allow those in the program] to go ahead and allow those who want to opt-out to do so every two years,” Schilling said.

Schilling also says that customers who already have their own contracts with energy providers will be ineligible for aggregation. 

The other option for energy aggregation in Ohio is an opt-in program. This program requires individual customers to sign up. In order for the program to begin, local governments have to pass a resolution that supports opt-in aggregation. After a plan is approved and public meetings are held, the program goes to PUCO for approval.

While energy aggregation supporters say tout the possible benefits of a lower energy bill, opponents in the past have claimed that aggregation is simply aggravation.

In 2012, the LaSalle News Tribune in Central Illinois reported that Tea Party members there opposed energy aggregation because they believed that energy aggregation was an unnecessary government intrusion into everyday life.