Home Environment Electric aggregation program expected to lower utilities by 28 percent

Electric aggregation program expected to lower utilities by 28 percent

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Thinking back to midterm elections this past November, you might recall seeing the words “electric aggregation” on the ballot, and marking “yes” for one of two reasons: one, you knew exactly what the Southeastern Ohio Public Energy Council had in store for the new year and were eager to get in on that action, or two, it sounded environmentally-friendly, and hey, we all want to be environmentally-friendly nowadays.

If you checked “yes,” you probably have already received a letter in the mail confirming your involvement in the electric aggregation program, and more specifically, if you checked yes for the second reason, you probably were a little alarmed, and should read this article, thoroughly.

The SOPEC is a council made up of governments from surrounding counties and county villages which aims to pool the purchasing power of residents in order to bargain for more reasonably priced energy and create a local generation of power, replacing the former, traditional state utility system.

The first step in achieving this goal was to put the program on the ballot in these local regions and have the voters majority decide whether or not to implement the program. The community voted in favor.

“Once it is approved, it becomes an opt out program — which means that everybody who is not signed up with a competitive supplier, everyone who is currently with the basic utility is automatically in, unless they decide to opt out,” said Executive Director of SOPEC Roger Wilkens.

According to the SOPEC, the program will deliver the same energy efficiency to its 16,000 new customers, but with a bill expected to cost 28 percent less than the price of the traditional utility program. The lower cost comes from a negotiated price of about 7.55 cents per kilowatt hour. The energy will be 25 percent renewable, which, for the average household, will add $5 per year. However, this “new” approach to the state utility program isn’t really all that new.

“About a dozen years ago, the Ohio legislature and a couple of other states started considering deregulating the utility industry. They decided that in Ohio and other states that they would allow governmental units, whether they are municipalities or other counties or townships or groups of them, to join together and do pooled purchasing power of both electric supply and electric services,” Wilkens said. “But we’re just focused on electricity right now.”

The council eventually received a certification from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to serve as an aggregator. This certification means the council has the ability to ask different energy suppliers to make proposals to meet the communities’ needs for electric power and other services.

“We asked not only for a good, reasonably priced energy supply with a significant amount of renewable energy included in it, but we also asked for proposals to create energy efficiency programs within our community and to help us create local generation of electricity using renewable sources,” Wilkens said.

The companies with the best proposals were AEP Energy, a subsidiary of the for-profit electric service provider, American Electric Power, and Empower Gas and Electric, a company based out of Columbus that has been chosen to contribute energy efficiency and local energy education and engagement services. The two companies will collaborate to provide local renewable energy for the Southeastern Ohio region.

The SOPEC’s first project will be a 10 acre solar power farm that will be constructed on an unused county landfill. It is expected to provide enough power for 325 households. The council plans to share more about the solar farm within the next few months.

“We feel that in terms of both getting more renewable power and doing it in such a way that it supports local economic development that it is really important that we move away from just buying local energy credits on a national market,” Wilkens said.

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