Madison Township reviewing gas aggregation rate program

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Four years ago, Madison Township voters approved a pair of ballot issues authorizing the township to act on their behalf in shopping around for cheaper electric and gas rates.

Public meetings were held and documents prepared to enter into an agreement for electricity because the township and its consultant, Scott Belcastro, felt it was more advantageous to first pursue electric aggregation.

Deregulation of gas and electric utilities in Ohio opened the door for individuals and entities like Madison Township to negotiate a lower rate for generation and transmission service.

The township has now decided to begin the process of determining the feasibility of gas aggregation. Public hearings were held March 6 to share plans and address concerns regarding the voter-approved aggregation program.

“I’m concerned about aggregation,” said Mark Hoerner, one of two citizens attending the morning session. “I’m still a little confused.”

Under aggregation, all eligible residents and small businesses are enrolled (similar to the township’s current trash district contract with Local Waste) and receive discounted pricing. However, the discount is just on the rate adder, which is only a portion of the cost, and does not apply to the total monthly bill.

Anyone not interested in participating can opt-out anytime by returning a form mailed to all eligible members. There is no early termination fee to opt-out of the program.

“If you really don’t want to be a part of the savings program, you can easily opt-out,” said Madison Township Administrator Susan Brobst. “We want you to be happy. You can call or send the form back in anytime.”

Columbia Gas would still be responsible for the distribution of natural gas to premises, line maintenance, service restoration and meter reading. The aggregation program has no impact on service reliability.  Customers would continue to receive one utility bill from Columbia. The only change would be the gas supplier.

The next step in the process is for the Madison Township trustees to adopt the plan at their March 15 meeting. Then Belcastro files the document with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, followed by a 30-day waiting period.

“If all goes well, around May 1, I will go out to bid for the natural gas program,” said Belcastro.

A committee comprised of township representatives, Belcastro and interested residents then reviews the bids and selects a supplier for trustee approval.

“If the board adopts this program for a gas supplier,” said Belcastro, “you’ll see an opt-out letter sometime in June or July.”

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