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What exactly is NOPEC, and other gas aggregation programs? Q&A

By Sara Dorn, Northeast Ohio Media Group  on  October 10, 2014

Posted: October 10, 2014

By Sara Dorn, Northeast Ohio Media Group 

GATES MILLS, Ohio — Increasingly popular natural gas and electricity aggregation programs promise to reduce property owners’ prices by offering them a group rate.

Voters in Gates Mills, Beachwood and Richmond Heights will decide in November whether to join more than 180 communities in northern Ohio who use the services.

But what do the programs entail and how much do they cost? Here’s what you need to know before you hit the polls:

Q. How will this program save me money?

A. Energy aggregation programs negotiate a group rate with natural gas and electricity suppliers for all participating communities.

The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, which serves 49 communities in Cuyahoga County and another 85 throughout Northeast Ohio, is the largest provider of energy aggregation programs in the United States, Senior Relationship Manager Charles Ramer said.

“We pool our load, and through our buying power, we can yield much better pricing than communities can on their own and individuals can on their own,” Ramer said. “It’s like buying in bulk.”

Q. How much can I expect to save?

A. It depends on the market, but from January-March last year, NOPEC customers paid $5.32 per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas. Dominion East Ohio Standard Choice, a common provider among Northeast Ohio residents, charged $5.54/mcf during the same months.

“We never promise to be the lowest, but we promise to be one of the most competitive and most legitimate,” Ramer said. “Because we are a non-profit council of governments, our pricing will always be competitive. There’s no gimmicks.”

Q. Does this program cost cities any extra money?

A. No

Q. If these issues pass in my community, do I have to get my natural gas from NOPEC?

A. You’ll automatically be enrolled in the program, but you can opt out at any time. NOPEC will send a letter before the program begins reminding residents of that option, and again every two years.

If you choose not to participate, you can negotiate a rate with the private company of your choice.

Q. Who is NOPEC?

A. The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council is a non-profit council of governments founded in the early 2000s, shortly after the state stopped regulating the natural gas and oil industries. NOPEC’s board of directors consists of government officials from each of the 10 counties.

“We also have a general assembly once a year where each of the different communities come and vote on policies, and in particular, the management of the organization,” NOPEC Marketing Manager Charles Ramer said.

Q. Do other communities do this?

A. Yes. 180 communities across 10 counties in Northeast Ohio have adopted gas aggregation programs, and 28 more will ask voters to join in November.

Q. Why is this being proposed now?

A. NOPEC recently began buying gas from NextEra, which prioritizes buying Ohio gas over interstate gas. The switch is expected to save homeowners and small businesses $100 annually.

The company is using the savings as a marketing push to snatch up the communities that haven’t joined its program yet.

Q. Why is this a ballot issue?

A. Because residents will automatically be switched to NOPEC, unless they opt-out of the program.

If voters approve the program, state law requires communities host two town halls before it begins, and the company will send residents letters allowing them to opt out of the program.



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