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Township weighs electric aggregation

Some area communities are already buying electric power in bulk.

Voters in the unincorporated areas of Clearcreek Twp. will decide in the Nov. 3 election whether to move toward joining communities around Ohio buying aggregated electric power.

Springfield, West Chester Township and Troy are among local governments already buying electric power in bulk on behalf of residents and small businesses. Dayton is seeking proposals from agents that would help it move forward with a program.

Miamisburg, Moraine, Kettering and Oakwood aren’t operating an aggregation program, although the communities are certified through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

“The consumer can go out and sign up for an aggregated rate on their own,” said Matt Schilling of the PUCO.“Generally a city is able to leverage their large consumer base to get a better rate.”

Ohio lawmakers deregulated electric power in 1999, setting the stage for townships, cities and counties to move toward aggregation, starting in 2001.

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Clearcreek Twp. trustees voted to place the issue on the fall ballot after months of discussions, despite potential opposition from voters opposed to government expansion.

Trustee Steve Muterspaw said he was able to persuade those with questions related to government expansion at one of his constituent meetings.

“Once they understood how it works, it was very, very well received,” Muterspaw said.

Township Administrator Jack Cameron said there has been no opposition voiced as the trustees discussed putting the issue on the ballot. If approved by voters, the township will then send out notices alerting approximately 5,000 residents eligible for the service that they can opt out of the program.

Large users and other individuals can also buy their electric power from any of 64 companies registered with PUCO to supply electric power in the area, including a subsidiary of the local utility, Dayton Power & Light in this case.

The utility still handles distribution and billing.

“Since DP&L’s distribution services are used by all electric suppliers, it does not take a position on aggregation efforts,” according to a statement.

Clearcreek Twp. will shoot for securing supplies below the rate DP&L provides to its regulated customers, Cameron said.

Ideally the rate negotiated by Clearcreek will beat or be competitive with those provided by other suppliers, but the rates are subject to fluctuations of the market.

“It’s a commodity. It changes everyday,” said Cameron, who oversaw an electric aggregation program at his previous job as manager for Evendale, north of Cincinnati.

“There’s the magic of being an aggregator. You have 7,000 people you are negotiating on behalf of,” Cameron said.

Clearcreek has retained Energy Alliances to assist in informing residents about the upcoming issue and acting as the broker finding customers the best price, if it passes.

“If it doesn’t pass, we are never going to make a dime,” said Bill Grafe, president of the Cincinnati-based firm. “We are part of the price with the supplier.”

Grafe said his company is also working on an issue on the fall ballot in Fairfield Twp., Butler County. So far, Energy Alliances is 29-0, but voters do reject electric aggregation issues, sometimes due to concerns about government expansion, he said.

“I think there is a very natural organic tendency for distrust of government,” said Judy Boyko, administrator in West Chester Twp., which retains Energy Alliances on gas and electric aggregation programs. “We’re just offering another option.”

Currently, Boyko said the township provides about 55 percent of eligible customers with power through its electric aggregation program. The rest opt out and obtain their electric power through the utility or another supplier. To participate, customers will need to obtain their electric power from the utility for at least a month before the aggregation becomes available.

Like other governments offering electric aggregation, Clearcreek Township is not to benefit financially and anticipates paying as much as $8,000 for the special election.

If the issue passes, the township must hold public meetings, obtain PUCO certification, contract with a supplier and ensure everyone eligible receives an opt-out notice.

“It’s at least four months,” said Cameron, estimating the new rate could show up on March bills.

While anticipating savings for customers, Cameron said electric supply rates have stabilized, flattening the upside.

“The savings are not what they were,” he said. “It’s going to add up to 50 to 100 bucks over a year.”

Neighboring governments were offered a chance to join the effort, but none opted in, Cameron said.

Hamilton Twp. is the only Warren Community with electric aggregation, Cameron said.

“Here’s my prediction: We do this and others go, “Huh we need to look at this,’” he said.

Beyond savings, Cameron said the process would clue in local consumers.

“People getting educated on the options is a good thing,” he said.

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