NOPEC Takes Advantage of New Ohio Gas Aggregation Law

Acting on recent Ohio legislation aimed at making natural gas customer-choice programs in the state more "consumer-friendly," the recently formed Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC), the nation's largest public energy aggregated buying group, reported that it has entered into a one-year contract with Shell Energy for natural gas services to residents of the 95 NOPEC communities.

Under the contract, NOPEC customers who participate in the choice program with Columbia Gas of Ohio and Dominion/East Ohio Gas would benefit from discounted natural gas. Columbia participants would save an average of approximately $200, or 16% annually during the heating season, while Dominion participants would realize an average savings of about $150, or 10% annually on their heating bills. The difference in savings is due to Dominion's higher gas cost recovery rate, NOPEC said.

"We are delighted to welcome Shell Energy as the newest member of our Northeast Ohio Energy Team," said Eastlake, OH, Mayor Dan DiLiberto, NOPEC's chairman. "NOPEC was created last winter just as natural gas rates were skyrocketing, and relief on heating bills has been the request most frequently made by our customers."

DiLiberto said the agreement with Shell fulfills NOPEC's commitment to provide lower-priced natural gas to consumers battered by last winter's soaring heating bills. NOPEC previously signed a six-year contract to provide electricity to approximately 450,000 residential customers who live in NOPEC communities.

"This agreement answers that request spectacularly," added Brook Park, OH, Mayor Thomas J. Coyne. "We are confident this will be the best deal on natural gas available in Northeast Ohio next winter, Period."

Under the recently amended Ohio Substitute House Bill 9, aggregation of natural gas consumers by governmental entities is permitted (see NGI, May 21; May 28). The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) points out that since similar aggregation has already occurred in the electric industry, the knowledge and experience gained by governmental entities from electric choice may assist in jump starting governmental aggregation in Ohio's competitive natural gas market.

NOPEC said that qualified customers will receive formal notification of the Shell offer by the end of June. NOPEC customers who are interested in participating in the program will have 30 days to enroll by telephone or over the Internet. Eligible participants for the offer include all qualified residential and small business customers living in the NOPEC communities, whose heating bill accounts are current. NOPEC serves 450,000 customers in eight counties in Northeast Ohio.

W. T. (Bill) Pompili, Shell Energy's Retail Energy Project manager said, "We welcome the opportunity to work with NOPEC and offer savings to their members."

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