October 4, 2018

Voters to Decide if Worthington Should Adopt an Energy-Aggregation Plan

Worthington wants to shrink its residents’ electric bills — and its carbon footprint — and city officials say Issue 39 can make that happen.

If voters approve the issue on Nov. 6, the city would have permission to go directly to energy suppliers to secure a bulk price that, when divided among residents and small businesses, could lead to cheaper electric bills.

The city says the agreement also would allow it to increase its reliance on renewable energy.

Under Ohio law, residents can negotiate prices with energy suppliers individually. But by turning thousands of residents into one large “energy buyer,” the city, in theory, would have added leverage in negotiations to ensure that the price people pay for their energy supply is lower. Worthington has about 14,600 residents, according to a 2017 Census Bureau estimate. 

The bulk-buying approach is used by many municipalities and counties in the state, especially in northeastern Ohio. In Franklin County, Dublin and Reynoldsburg are the only cities registered with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio as energy aggregators. Four townships — Hamilton, Madison, Prairie and Pleasant — also have programs.

Issue 39 was placed on the ballot after Worthington City Council approved it in June. Councilman Scott Myers, the lone dissenting vote, said his opposition was largely based on not yet fully understanding the day-to-day implications for residents.

“I don’t want to make anyone’s life more complicated than it already is,” he said. At this point, he said, he doesn’t believe the program will do that.

An electric bill has two major components: the cost of generating electricity, and the cost of delivering that energy to consumers.

The part that would change for Worthington residents is the rate for power generation. Instead of consumers paying the default rate set by the utility company — in this case, AEP Ohio — Worthington would attempt to negotiate a lower rate with any of the 157 competitive retail electric-service providers operating in Ohio.

Worthington also is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, so the city will negotiate specifically with suppliers that provide renewable energy to the grid, said Steve Gandee, the city’s finance manager.

Gandee, who has been tapped to answer residents’ questions on the issue, said the goal is: “Get the best bang for our buck and get as green as we can and still save the residents money.”

Residents would pay their monthly bill to AEP regardless of what company is selected as the supplier. Residents can opt out of the program at any time. Those who are already in agreements with other suppliers wouldn’t immediately be eligible to enroll in the city’s program.

In his conversations with residents, Gandee said he hasn’t heard much opposition, except for one person who didn’t want the government deciding which energy supplier a resident uses.

Myers emphasized that if Issue 39 passes, it doesn’t mean that the city will create an aggregation program, but that it can explore the possibility.

“If we go to the market and we’re not seeing the savings, we don’t have to do it,” he

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