What is government aggregation?
An aggregator is a person or organization that brings a group of customers together. A large buying group may be able to get better terms for the group members than you could get on your own. This “buying power” may also allow aggregators to negotiate for additional benefits for the group’s members such as consolidated billing, energy management services and energy use analysis. Ohio’s law allows for local government aggregation by cities, townships or counties, with "opt-in" or "opt-out" provisions for their consumers. All aggregators must be certified by the PUCO to make sure they are qualified to provide electricity or natural gas in Ohio.
How do I join?
“Opt-in” aggregation is a program that permits each resident to sign up individually to participate. “Opt-out” aggregation is a program that automatically enrolls all local residents, unless they individually opt-out of the program and choose not to be included. If the local government chooses opt-in aggregation, it must pass a resolution in support of the program, develop a plan and hold two public hearings. It must also be certified by the PUCO before signing up customers. The plan must include all rates and terms for customers to consider when deciding to join.
If the local government chooses opt-out aggregation, a number of additional requirements must be met, including the following:
- First, a majority of voters must authorize opt-out aggregation in an election.
- If authorized by a majority of the vote, the local government must form a plan of operation and management. They must also hold at least two public hearings to allow consumers to voice any concerns over the proposed plan.
- Once the local government has adopted the plan, each consumer that is to be aggregated must be notified that they will be automatically enrolled in the program unless they specifically elect not to participate. This notification must also state the rates, charges, and other terms and conditions of enrollment in the program.
- The local government must allow anyone enrolled in the program an opportunity to opt-out. For natural gas aggregation consumers the opt-out is available every two years without paying a switching fee. For electric aggregation consumers, the opt-out is available every three years without paying a switching fee.
Some things to consider about government aggregation:
- Consumers in an area where government aggregation has been approved will not need to sign a contract; they are automatically enrolled unless they opt-out.
- Those who do not explicitly opt-out and are in a government aggregation area are automatically included in the municipality’s aggregation. If these consumers do not opt-out and then choose a new supplier, they remain customers of the government aggregation program.
- Consumers in an area with government aggregation who want to remain with their local utility will need to opt-out of the aggregation program and switch to their local utility.
For both natural gas and electric aggregation, customers who are already enrolled in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP Plus) are not eligible. PIPP Plus is an extended payment arrangement based on a percentage of the household income for those customers who are at or below 150% of the federal poverty income guidelines.
For natural gas and electric aggregations, the only other customers who are not eligible to participate are those that are already under individual contracts with suppliers as part of a customer choice program. These customers will not appear on eligible customer lists provided to the governmental aggregator or the governmental aggregator's chosen supplier, and they should not receive the “Opt-Out” notice.
It’s important to note that if you recently switched to a new supplier, there is a possibility that your name was not removed from the eligibility list. You should return the opt-out notice if you do not wish to be switched to the aggregation’s supplier. That is a decision for you to make. You will want to talk to your chosen supplier if you are considering switching to the aggregation's supplier to find out if there are penalties for early cancellation of the contract.
What should I do?
Determine if you would like to stay with the supplier you have chosen or would like to join the governmental aggregation. The important thing to remember is that this process is time-sensitive. If you wish to stay with the supplier you have chosen, you must opt-out of the governmental aggregation. To do so, watch your mail for your opt-out notice. With all governmental aggregations, customers usually have 14 to 21 days to respond. All customers within a governmental aggregation will receive this notice with directions on how to opt-out. Do not discard the notice.
If you miss the opt-out deadline, you will still have one more opportunity to remove yourself from the governmental aggregation. Once the switch is scheduled to take place, customers will receive a notice from their local electric or natural gas utility stating that they are scheduled to be switched over, as well as the name of the supplier to which they will be switched. This notification will give the customer seven days from the postmark on that notice to contact the local utility if the information is not correct, or they wish to opt-out of the aggregation.
If you wish to join the governmental aggregation, talk to your supplier. You will want to find out what the penalties will be for leaving that contract and determine if these are penalties you are willing to accept.
Customers who are not interested in aggregating with their local municipality can sign-up with the PUCO's Do Not Aggregate list. Find out more here, or call the customer service line at 800-686-PUCO.
For questions regarding the governmental aggregation or the procedures for opting-out of the aggregation pool, customers should contact their local government or the supplier that has been chosen to represent the community.