An update on utility aggregation

An update on utility aggregation

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

In the 2015 November General Election, voters in Sidney approved both electric and natural gas aggregation. Voters in the surrounding communities of Botkins, Bradford, Fort Loramie and Russia approved similar measures, and joined what became known as the Sidney aggregate pool. Inasmuch as the village of Lockington is not served by a natural gas supplier, their residents only joined the electric aggregate pool.

Knowing that the larger the pool, the lower the prices we could obtain, Affordable Gas + Electric Managing Partner Jeff Haarmann and I worked with the mayors of a number of surrounding communities to provide them with information about aggregation. Subsequently, voters in Anna, Ansonia, Belle Center, Bellefontaine, Covington, DeGraff, Greenville, Quincy, Wayne Lakes and West Milton all approved aggregation, and joined the pool.

In addition, Coldwater, Fort Recovery and Jeffersonville, communities whose voters had approved aggregation prior to Sidney’s vote, also joined our larger pool. I am pleased to report that the efforts to increase the size of the pool have continued, and voters in Urbana will be voting on aggregation in May. It is certainly my hope that additional communities will eventually join as well.

The current natural gas aggregation contract is set to expire during the May 2018 meter reading cycle. A new natural gas contract for another 12 month period will begin with the June meter reading. The new rate will be $0.423/Ccf, and the contract will remain with Constellation. Constellation has been our supplier since we began natural gas aggregation, and Constellation again submitted the lowest bid.

As a result of having a new contract, residents will see a new round of opt-out letters in their mailboxes. If you are happy with the new negotiated rate and term, simply disregard the letter.

If you believe that you can secure a lower rate elsewhere, you can opt-out of the new natural gas contract by completing and returning the opt-out form included in the mailing. Residents should remember that they can opt-out of our program at any time without penalty — one of the great features of our program.

I would encourage you to compare rates. One source is By accessing the website, you can compare natural gas rates in the Vectern Energy delivery area. I would caution you to read the fine print, as most contracts have a termination fee for leaving the contract early.

Residents on the city’s aggregation program will continue to receive only one bill from Vectren for natural gas. In the Detailed Account Activity section of the bill you will find Energy Delivery Detail and Gas Supplier Detail.

The Energy Delivery Detail includes distribution and service charges that fall under Vectren’s authority. The Gas Supplier Detail includes the charges regulated under the city’s aggregation program — the actual natural gas you use. One way to double-check to ensure that you are enrolled in the city’s program is to check the Gas Supplier Detail area to make sure that it lists Constellation as the supplier name and the rate equals the city’s contracted rate.

It is important to remember that the supplier’s rate for natural gas remains fixed under the city’s aggregation contract. The Vectern Energy delivery charges are subject to fluctuation.

Our electric aggregation rate is currently $0.05441/kWh. The current contract will run through April 2019. At that time, the rate will drop to $0.0529/kWh. In accord with state statute, another round of opt-out letters will be in your mailbox at that time as well.

If you are presently living in Sidney or any of the other communities listed above and are under contract with another electric or natural gas supplier and want to make the switch to either of the Sidney

aggregation programs or those in your community, feel free to call our energy consultant, Affordable Gas + Electric at 618-203-8328. However, make certain to review the conditions of your current contract. As noted previously, many suppliers include early termination fees as a standard part of their contract, making a change prior to the end of the contract financially unwise.

Sidney’s City Council designed the community aggregation program to allow residents to opt in and out of the program as they choose with no penalty. If you have any questions regarding the aggregation program, I would again encourage you to contact the customer service representatives at Affordable Gas + Electric at 618-203-8328.

In talking with residents, I some months ago learned that some did not sign up for Sidney’s electric aggregation program because they were concerned that it would negatively impact Dayton Power & Light, and they did not want to hurt a local company. It is important for residents to understand that Dayton Power & Light sold their electrical generation business some years ago. They no longer generate electricity and as a result, this program is not in competition with them. They continue to own and maintain the transmission lines and equipment, so when you have an outage, you still call them.

In closing, I want to again note that neither the cities nor the villages that are part of the aggregate pool receive any monetary benefit from aggregation. The benefit comes from knowing that consumers save money on utility costs — costs that have increased dramatically in the past several years.
An update on utility aggregation

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.