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The Suburbanite
  • Power in bulk electric buying: Understanding aggregation

  • Voters in five Stark County communities will decide if they want their local governments to be a supplier of electricity through a bulk buying plan.

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  • How many times have you wished you could change your mind after an election?
    That’s the choice voters in five Stark County communities will get Tuesday if they approve their local governments as a supplier of electricity through a bulk-buying plan.
    Even if voters approve the plan, they can change their minds individually and say they want no part of the program.
    Canton, East Canton and Plain, Osnaburg and Paris townships have bulk electric buying plans — called government aggregations — on the ballot.
    The theory behind the move is that a large buying group should be able to get a better price for group members than individual customers can.
    Canton has contracted with Independent Energy Consultants of Aurora to design, implement and administer its program, if voters approve. President Mark Burns said the company will shop and negotiate to get city residents the best price.
    He estimates, because of rising rates, the average customer will save about $80 each year for the next three years.
    “That’s $2 million of disposable income that will stay in Canton,” he said. The company already is the electric consultant for a number of the 15 Stark County communities that have voted to aggregate.
    All of the communities on Tuesday’s ballot are served mostly by American Electric Power-Ohio (Ohio Power). Paris Township is split between AEP and FirstEnergy (Ohio Edison). Plain and Osnaburg have small areas served by FirstEnergy.
    All five issues are for “opt-out” plans. That means all residents automatically will be included unless they specifically elect not to participate.
    If the aggregation is authorized, the local government must form a plan of operation and management and must hold at least two public hearings to allow customers to voice any concerns over the proposed plan.
    Burn said Independent will draft the plan and hold the public meetings for Canton.
    After the government has adopted the plan, each customer included must be notified they will be automatically enrolled in the program unless they elect not to participate. Those letters will come from the supplier selected to serve the city, Burns said.
    The notification must state the rates, charges and other terms and conditions of enrollment.
    The opt-out notice is usually a letter accompanied by a postcard to be mailed back if residents do not want to participate or sometimes a phone number to call or website to visit to opt-out.
    Electric aggregation customers may opt out every three years without paying a switching fee.
    Terri Flora, corporate communications director for American Electric Power-Ohio, said communication from the supplier is important. “You have to pay attention to what is in the mail and be aware of it,” she said.
    “As rates go up ... we’re starting to see more competition” now and in the future. “It’s going to take time to develop.”