LIMA — Lima City Council will soon be able to vote on a resolution that council members said they hope will give residents the chance for a better rate on their electric bills.
Council’s Committee of the Whole met with representatives from Toledo-based Palmer Energy, a consulting firm that works with municipalities and counties to aggregate an area’s electricity supply rate. With utility supply rates now deregulated, customers can now search for their own supplier, entering into contract with whichever company offers what that customer feels is the best rate. Aggregation takes all eligible customers in a selected area and negotiates a supply rate for all of those customers at once, with the rationale being that having a large group of customers available will prompt suppliers to offer better rates.
“We currently have been executing this with the Allen County commissioners for almost five years now, and the entire unincorporated part of Allen County is in the program,” Palmer Energy account manager Bill Bradish said. “In the four and a half years the county has been involved, the cumulative savings, compared to if these meters were just with AEP, is $7.5 million.”
If aggregation is approved, customers would have the option to opt out of the program and shop for supply rates themselves, should they choose. Additionally, customers on Percentage of Income Payment Plans would not be eligible for the plan, and customers already with a third-party electricity supplier would not be included automatically, but could opt in whenever they choose, such as when their contract is up with their supplier.
Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan was not on the board when the agreement was first made, but he said the program has been beneficial for county residents.
“It’s definitely resulted in savings for the residents who chose to participate,” he said. “Having an aggregated process has made for costs in the consumers’ favor.”
Some council members voiced concerns over this proposal, citing fears that elderly residents or those who are not computer literate may not be able to determine if they are receiving a good rate.
“This is unfair for the elderly because they don’t have access to computers,” 5th Ward Councilwoman Teresa Adams said. “They don’t do the apples to apples [comparison], and they’re hoodwinked.”
Council President John Nixon was hesitant about the proposal several years ago when it was first brought up, but after further consideration, he is now in favor of aggregation in the city.
“I have a feeling that there is a large group of people in Lima who are frustrated with the [shopping] process and often blow it off and end up paying more than they could be paying,” he said. “This will make that process a lot easier and will generally get a much better price.”
A public hearing on the issue will be held during one of Lima City Council’s June meetings. If approved, Ohio law requires this issue to be placed on the ballot for a vote. Nixon said enough time will be devoted to holding readings on this resolution to ensure it will meet the Aug. 9 deadline to be added to the November ballot.