Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Aggregate programs and consumer choice set to lower electric bills

If you live in one of the several townships or cities in the area that have established an electric "aggregate" program, you may start seeing lower utility bills soon. In West Chester, where I personally reside, my electric rate is set to drop to 6.2 cents / kWh on my next bill as compared my Duke Energy "rate to compare" of 9.2 cents / kWh.

Aggregate programs vs. Consumer Choice options

You may have received a lot of mail recently from your local governing body, Duke, and even other electric suppliers trying to get you to either sign-up or opt-out of a particular program. As is often the case with mailings of this sort, much of the material seemed to purposely obscure or confuse the options available (in my opinion).

The Ohio Consumer Choice program has been around for some time and allows residents in Ohio to pick suppliers for gas and electric with distribution costs remaining the purview of your local utility.

Cities and Townships throughout Ohio have the option to create a governmental aggregation program in order to negotiate for lower rates from suppliers. Residents in the area are automatically included unless they directly opt-out. Suppliers, on the other hand, must get residents to "opt-in" to their program. A resident who opts-out of the aggregate program, but does not select another supplier would continue to pay the local utility rate as regulated by the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

This year, we seem to be experiencing a much more competitive environment due to the recession, increasing the significance in a choice of supplier. Both First Energy and Dominion have made available special offers for current Duke customers that will be less than the standard Duke "price to compare". Duke Energy has also created its own subsidiary unit that can be selected as a supplier at reduced prices (figure than one out, eh?).

Generally speaking, you'll receive some level of discount by signing up for a specific period of time - usually 1 year or longer. Some of these will have automatic re-enrollment, so you'll need to review your pricing again when the period expires. For those of you who are concerned with the source of energy (i.e., coal, gas, renewables, etc.), you may need to do a bit more research of an individual company to identify the makeup of the supply.

Be aware that pricing varies based on your personal energy usage, but you will likely benefit by making a choice of some sort from among the current offers. You can find a list of locally available suppliers on the Duke website. You can also visit the PUCO site that discusses the choice programs along with a list of cities and townships that have aggregation programs here.

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