Urbana votes for utility aggregation

URBANA — City of Urbana residents have voted to improve their collective negotiating power with the approval of electric and natural gas aggregation ballot issues.

Voter approval allows Affordable Gas + Electric (AGE), the city’s aggregation consultant, to negotiate bulk electric and natural gas supply rates for residents inside the city’s incorporated limits.

Urbana residents join neighboring residents of Sidney, Greenville, Bellefontaine and 17 other communities in Darke, Logan, Miami, Mercer and Shelby counties, which will collectively bid and negotiate for lower electric and natural gas rates.

“I am delighted that Urbana voters saw the tremendous economic advantages that participating in an aggregation program can provide,” Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst stated. Barhorst has addressed mayors and councils in a number of municipalities encouraging them to consider placing aggregation on the ballot.

“The larger we can grow the aggregate,” Barhorst stated, “the better rates we will be able to obtain for the Sidney residents and businesses participating in the program. I certainly thank Urbana Mayor Bill Bean and Urbana council members for their willingness to listen to the advantages our residents and small businesses have received, learning more about aggregation from AGE and placing the natural gas and electric issues on the ballot. That allowed the voters to determine whether they wanted to participate in an aggregate program, and clearly, the majority did.”

Jeff Haarmann, managing partner of AGE, commented after the election results were in that his firm was excited to represent the residents of Urbana and welcomed them to their overall aggregate of communities. Haarmann added that Urbana is joining the largest group of communities negotiating in bulk in the DP&L utility area.

“We have already started preliminary discussions with many electricity and natural gas suppliers who have committed to bidding on the collective group,” Haarmann stated. “Approval of these aggregation programs allows us to negotiate a bulk rate for Urbana residents. Once established, residents will be able to take advantage of the newly secured rate automatically, but may also opt-out at any point, without penalty.”

AGE provided a timeline for implementation of such a program. Initially, the city council will need to approve the plan of operation and governance at an upcoming council meeting. Official PUCO documents will be filed and by the end of July, the city is expected to be approved as a PUCO-certified governmental aggregator. Bidding will then commence in August, with newly secured rates to likely be on resident’s bills by October or November billing cycles.

Prior to rates going into effect, all eligible residents will be mailed letters by the winning bidder, allowing them to opt-out of the bulk rate if desired. Once the mandated opt-out period is over, all residents who did not opt-out will automatically be enrolled in the aggregation program and have the advantage of the new rates. Further details will be released as the bidding process advances.

AGE manages more than 120 electricity and natural gas aggregations in Ohio and Illinois, representing more than 80,000 residential households. More than 85 percent of all eligible residents participate in their aggregation programs. Additionally, AGE manages 19 commercial aggregation programs through association and chamber of commerce partnerships.