Columbia Township Natural Gas Aggregation Program

In November 2015, Columbia Township residents voted to implement a gas aggregation program. Since then Township officials have been fulfilling statutory requirements to be certified as a natural gas aggregator. Once this certification is received the Township will solicit proposals from natural gas suppliers to acquire natural gas at the best market price available. Residents and businesses will then be notified of the opportunity to participate in the program.

What is a Natural Gas Aggregation Program and how does it benefit a resident or business?

Currently, residents and small businesses have two choices for natural gas supply. They can be supplied by Duke or they can go on their own and choose an alternative Natural Gas Marketer. Aggregation allows residents an additional third option which is the Columbia Township Aggregation Program.
One difficulty facing consumers is that if they are receiving supply from Duke they do not know what their gas price will be in the future. Since the Duke Energy rate changes monthly, this makes it difficult for a family or small business to budget their dollars. Natural Gas Aggregation combines the retail natural gas loads of customers in the Township. By combining loads, the Township can be more effective in providing customized rates than an individual customer. This combined buying power typically provides attractive and more stable rates.

How Does an Opt-Out Aggregation Program Work?

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has created rules to govern how an aggregation program will be run and to protect residents from fraudulent practices. In 2015 Township voters passed an initiative to create a Natural Gas Aggregation Program and authorizing the Township to work with a gas supplier on their behalf. After the PUCO certifies the Township as a natural gas aggregator, the Township will work with a supplier to develop a customized purchasing program to meet the needs of the Township. All eligible residents will be automatically included in the Program unless they choose to Opt-Out. Prior to enrollment, all eligible residents will be mailed notices detailing the Program and will be offered 21 days to remain in the Program or to not participate by Opting-Out. Additionally, they will get a second chance to cancel their enrollment by means of a separate letter from Duke following the 21 day period. Those that choose to stay in the Aggregation program do nothing and they will begin to receive service on their next meter reading date.

What role will Duke Energy play with natural gas aggregation?

Duke will continue to provide the same great delivery service they have always provided. They will operate the pipelines, read your meter and issue your bill. Duke will continue to charge residents for gas delivery service as they always have. The price for the natural gas will be shown on the bill as the Township’s Aggregation price.

Will the residents receive one or two bills for their Natural Gas Service?

Residents will continue to receive only one bill from Duke. The Aggregation Program rates will appear on that bill. Residents will continue to pay their bill the same way they always have.

What is the main difference between the price I am receiving from Duke and the Aggregation price?

Duke is in the business of transporting natural gas. If Duke has to also purchase the natural gas for customers they pass the costs of the gas through to their customers. This cost changes monthly based on market conditions. Price volatility is not just a measure of prices going up but how quickly they go up and then back down. There are a lot of circumstances affecting changes in prices such as hurricanes, political tension in the world and increasing demand. These factors contribute to a very precarious natural gas market.
The purpose of an Aggregation program is to utilize the expertise of an energy company to manage the natural gas costs for Township. The goal of this strategy will be to take away the extreme pricing up and downs and to offer a stable price for natural gas. This can be achieved by using the energy experts to watch the market and make purchases when the market shows signs of weakness. The aggregation price will be based on estimated savings along with terms and conditions of service.

Who can participate?

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has developed rules specific to who is and is not eligible for automatic enrollment:
1) must not be enrolled in Percentage Income Payment Program;
2) their accounts must be in good credit standing with the utility;
3) they must be located within the boundaries of the municipality;
4) they cannot be currently supplied by an alternative supplier; and
5) they must be classified as a residential customer or must be a small commercial (using less than 5000 ccf per year).

How does an eligible participant sign up for this program?

In order to make it easier, all eligible participants will be automatically enrolled in the program unless they choose not to participate by “opting-out”. All customers will be mailed the two opportunities to join which will include a letter explaining the program. If you do nothing then you will be enrolled in the program.

Will there be a period where residents can leave or join the aggregation program?

The initial enrollment period, which will be 21 days, is typically the only enrollment period during which the natural gas supplier must accept customers at the gas price quoted in the notification letter.
However, the Township may accept at its discretion additional customers at any time during the program.

Will residents know the price for natural gas in the Aggregation program before they enroll?

Yes.  A notification letter will be sent to every eligible participant that will explain the program, explain the price for the gas and contain an opt-out notice if a resident does not what want to participate.

If a customer joins the program can they get out?

Yes.  Any customer will be able to leave at the end of the contract period without penalty.

When could the residents of Columbia Township receive pricing from this program?

After the PUCO certifies the Township as a natural gas aggregator, the Township will solicitor proposals from natural gas suppliers. After a supplier is chosen, new pricing should be available within 90 days.

What are the three main points for residents to remember?

The first is that this program allows for residents and small businesses another choice to manage their natural gas costs.
The second is that Duke will continue to provide the same great deliver service that you have always received.
Finally, this program will be customized to meet the needs of Columbia Township residents and businesses.