Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Green Twp. may form electric-bill buying pool



By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

GREEN TOWNSHIP - Want to cut your electric bills?

That'll be a choice in Green Township, where trustees want to form a buying pool to cut the cost of electric bills for residents.

If voters approve a measure Nov. 2, Green Township would join Indian Hill as the only jurisdictions in Southwest Ohio to launch what is known as an electric aggregation program. Such pooling is much more popular in northern Ohio, where rates are higher.

Trustees estimate that creating a buying pool could save residents as much as 11 percent on their electric bills.

"It's a no-brainer," said Trustee Tony Upton, who recently switched from Cinergy to Dominion Energy, saving about 8 percent on his bill. "It costs the township nothing to do this, and there is no risk involved for the residents."

Governmental aggregation would allow the township to negotiate with electric suppliers to get a cheaper group rate for its citizens. Residents would be under no obligation to change suppliers if the measure passes, and they could opt out of the program.

Individuals already have the option to switch suppliers on their own without the township's help. But trustees said the advantage of aggregation is that a block of power is likely to come at a cheaper rate for 22,000 people.

Len Auberger, a Monfort Heights resident, said he likes the idea of lower rates, but worries about who would take responsibility for restoring service in the event of a large power outage.

"I'd be very cautious," said Auberger, a Cinergy customer. "The savings just don't seem to be that beneficial."

In the event of an outage, state law stipulates that Cinergy would have to restore power even to non-customers because the company still controls the energy distribution lines.

Governmental aggregation was permitted four years ago under Ohio's electric deregulation law. It was expanded in 2001 to include natural gas customers.

More than 700,000 Ohioans who have switched suppliers under Ohio's Electric Choice law have done so through aggregation, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. An additional 200,000 Ohio residents buy natural gas through aggregation.

The trend is slowly catching on in Southwest Ohio. Cinergy has seen roughly 4 percent (25,134) of its customer base switch to other suppliers.

In 2001, 95 percent of Indian Hill voters passed a measure allowing the city to negotiate with suppliers on their behalf.

Indian Hill City Manager Michael Burns said about 50 of the city's 2,200 residents opted out of its aggregation program when it went into effect last year.

"A lot of folks just didn't understand it, but they are happy to accept a discount," Burns said.

Switching rates

What is aggregation?

Aggregation is when a group of customers joins to form a single, larger customer that buys energy for its members. A large buying group may be able to get a better price.

What is governmental aggregation?

Ohio law allows communities to form the aggregated buying groups on behalf of their citizens. The governmental aggregator chooses an outside supplier for all the customer-members in its group. Aggregations can be formed to buy natural gas, electricity or both.

Are residents obligated to sign up for the aggregation program?

No. Customers can stick with the energy supplier they have, take the supplier picked by their government or choose a different energy supplier of their own.

Where can I go for more information?

Call (800) 686-7826 or visit www.PUCO.ohio.gov

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E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com




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