Village locks in energy aggregation
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
Sunbury’s natural gas and electric aggregation plans of operation and governance were both approved during last Wednesday’s (December 5) Sunbury Village Council meeting. The natural gas aggregation plan of operation and governance was covered in Ordinance 2012–17; electric aggregation was covered in Ordinance 2012–18. Both ordinances were approved with suspension of rules and emergency language, making them effective immediately.
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.
When the issues reached voters they approved allowing the village to negotiate residential electric and natural gas aggregation by significant margins.
In June members of village council and village administrators interviewed potential suppliers for the village’s electric and national gas aggregation program. In July, with the assistance of energy broker Scott Belcastro, Trebel, Inc., they began creating the necessary plans of operation and governance; and in early November council members scheduled two required public hearings on November 20 and November 28.
Belcastro, who described himself as an independent broker, said the plans of operation and governance Belcastro negotiated with the village would have electricity supplied by Powell-based Border Energy, and natural gas supplied by Pickerington-based Volunteer Energy.
For both electricity and natural gas, Belcastro will act as the village energy broker, with no fees assessed to the village; the energy suppliers pay Belcastro.
Belcastro said signing a one-year electric aggregation contract with Border Energy would save residents a guaranteed 15 percent off AEP’s monthly generation and transmission charges that appear on their electric bill; American Electric Power’s distribution charge would remain unchanged. Small businesses will save 10 percent off of the generation and transmission of electricity.
Border Energy’s residential early termination fee will be $50. Electric bills would still come from AEP with Border Energy charges noted, natural gas bills would still come from Columbia Gas with Volunteer Energy charges noted.
Volunteer Energy currently offers a savings of 7 percent off of the residential customer’s natural gas bill adder, with no early termination fee. Because natural gas rates will not be negotiated until February, Belcastro said, it’s not known whether or not the village would enter a natural gas aggregation agreement.
Before last Wednesday’s votes, village solicitor David Brehm said the two ordinances are the culmination of what council members had been moving towards.
“This is legislation formalizing the plans of operation and governance that will allow us to approach the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio,” Brehm said. “To reduce the time frame I recommend the suspension of the rules and emergency language.”
Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield said he thought the November 28 public hearing went well.
“We had better attendance than we did at the first public hearing, and there were a lot of clarifications,” Hatfield said. “Everybody had an opportunity to speak.”
Belcastro, in chambers for the vote, said he also thought the second public hearing served its purpose of answering resident’s questions about the village’s opt-out natural gas and electric aggregation programs.
“We will be going forward and will make applications to PUCO, then the mayor will sign them,” Belcastro said. “Because natural gas prices are not set until February we can approve this, then in February when Volunteer Energy understands what they can offer letters will be sent out for natural gas aggregation. With electricity we will move immediately.”
In the past Belcastro emphasized that the Sunbury aggregation programs are opt-out programs. Residents will receive separate letters in the mail (one for electricity one for natural gas) notifying them that they have 21 days to opt-out of either program.
If residents want to stay in the program they have to do nothing. If they don’t want to stay in they can opt out and there’s no fee. The contract is on an annual basis, and they can opt out again next year.