Sunbury step closer to aggregation
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
For nearly two years the Village of Sunbury has been exploring acquiring electricity for village facilities through an aggregation agreement as a cost savings measure; and has also moved towards electric and natural gas aggregation options for village residents by placing electric and gas aggregation issues on the November 8, 2011, ballot.
Fred Holmes from Volunteer Energy began stumping for Village Council to place the two residential aggregation issues — electricity and natural gas — on the ballot well over a year and a half ago; and when the issues reached voters they approved allowing the village to negotiate residential electric and gas aggregation by significant margins.
Scott Belcastro, Trebel LLC, was in chambers at the Wednesday, October 17, Village Council meeting to discuss an electric aggregation program for village facilities; and in a separate discussion, about natural gas and electric aggregation for village residents.
Belcastro, who described himself as an independent broker, said Trebel LLC is an energy-consulting firm. Belcastro explained that he does not work for the energy companies buying bulk gas and electric energy at auction and selling it to the village; he functions more like an insurance broker. The village has a need, various companies could fill that need, Belcastro would be in the middle hooking the two up — hopefully in the best interests of both parties.
Belcastro was back in chambers last Wednesday with formal residential and small business electricity and governance plans for council member’s conditional approval, an offer for Border Energy to supply electricity for village facilities, and asking for confirmation for Trebel LLC to serve as the village energy broker.
Sunbury Village Solicitor David Brehm explained that he and Sunbury Village Administrator Dave Martin had met with Belcastro and talked about specifics of the final proposals.
“Both plans of governance are for residential and small business customers with a 21-day opt-out,” Brehm said. “If a small business has an existing agreement with another supplier it doesn’t apply to them. Resolution 2012–16 authorizes the village to contract with Trebel to be our broker and advisor in all these services; Scott Belcastro has been assisting us with the aggregation process and the language, looking out for village interests.”
Brehm said the energy provider, not the village, pays Trebel LLC; and assured council members that final approval for the residential and small business aggregation will not come until after the two public hearings.
The Electricity Plan of Governance guarantees village residents 15 percent off generation and transmission of electricity (AEP remains the local distributor so AEP’s distribution charge will remain unchanged), and 10 percent off generation and transmission for small businesses, both on a 12-month term with Border Energy as the provider.
Volunteer Energy will provide natural gas for 12 months with a guaranteed 7 percent off Columbia Gas rates.
“Volunteer Energy has a pretty unique program; Seven percent lower than Columbia Gas throughout the year,” Belcastro said. “I’ve not seen this anywhere else.”
Belcastro said after the initial 21-day opt-out the residential electricity opt-out fee will be $50, and every 12 months for free; the small business/commercial opt-out fee would be $150.
Sunbury mayor Tommy Hatfield said what he likes about the plans on the table is that any residential customer or small business has the right to opt-out and stay with the utility.
“This language includes anybody who wants to be in or be out,” Hatfield said. “And if they’re on a do-not aggregate list or have another agreement it doesn’t apply to them.”
There were questions about some residents not being aware of the initial opt-out option. Belcastro said Border Energy would be accommodating and within 30 days put people back in the utility for no cost.
“We have to follow Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rules for notification, but you’re always welcome to do more,” Belcastro said. “Residents will be sent a letter, you can put it on your village website, it will be in the newspaper, two public hearings — there will be plenty of opportunities to hear about this.”
Council members approved motions to accept the electric and gas plans of governance.
Council members also held a first reading on a resolution to enter into a contract with Trebel LLC; and a first reading on a resolution to enter into a contract with Border Energy to provide electricity for village facilities for 24 months with a projected savings of $21,000 each year.
Members of Sunbury Village Council will hold a natural gas and electricity aggregation public hearing and special meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, November 20; and a second public hearing and council meeting at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 28 (Finance meeting at 6:30). A meeting will not be held on Wednesday, November 21, to accommodate the Thanksgiving holiday.
Belcastro said if council approves the resolution approving a contract with Trebel LLC at the November 20 session, and the plans of governance following the November 28 public hearing, energy could be flowing at the new rates by March 1, 2013.
“Trebel is going to manage your energy for you,” Belcastro added. “It’s a pretty complex market; there’s a lot of moving pieces to it.”