The opportunity for energy cost-savings is boosting interest by Ohio communities in joining together to purchase electricity and natural gas.
In Warren County alone, three communities are weighing issues on ballots for the Nov. 8 election that would lead down the road to their community buying bulk power for residents and local businesses.
More than 10,000 voters in Franklin and Wayne townships and the Village of Corwin, are registered to vote on separate issues for gas and electric aggregation.
They would be joining Clearcreek Twp., the local pioneer largely due to efforts led by Township Administrator Jack Cameron, who brought with him expertise from his last job as administrator in Evendale, north of Cincinnati.
Wayne Twp. trustees decided to put issues for aggregation of electricity and gas on the Nov. 8 ballot after encouragement from Cameron, according to Gus Edwards, long-time administrator in Wayne Twp.
“Clearcreek actually asked other townships to present this to their voters,” Edwards said in an email. “After consideration, the board decided the presidential general election would be the time to get the greatest amount of public input as to whether or not the citizens would like the local elected officials to use the purchasing power of greater numbers of participants to help lower utility bills to residents.”
Wayne Twp., where 3,763 people are registered, is holding a town hall meeting on the issue on Oct. 12, the same day early voting opens. There are 348 registered voters in Corwin, a village east of Waynesville.
Franklin Twp., where 7,656 are registered, had one last week. Madison Twp. in Butler County held a forum on electric aggregation last week. Voters in Hanover Twp. in Butler County will also find an electric aggregation issue on their ballots.
Wayne and Franklin townships are both working with Trebel, one of a handful of companies that mount campaigns to pass ballot issues beginning the process.
Even if the community approves aggregation, residents get a chance to opt out of the program and buy their gas or electric from one of the other deregulated sources or the local utility.
Through consultants like Trebel, aggregating communities then contract for their electricity or gas in bulk.
The local utility still handles distribution and billing.
“Voters have a choice to make. They should do what is best for them,” said Mary Ann Kabel, a Dayton Power & Light spokesperson.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio offers assistance and information.
Last November, nearly 54 percent of Clearcreek Twp. voters approved beginning the aggregation process.
This August, local users there began paying bills based on a three-year, 5.39 cent per kilowatt rate, Cameron said.
Savings vary but should amount to about 15 percent for former customers of Duke and 25 percent over the regulated rate for those who previously bought their power from Dayton Power & Light, Cameron said via emails.
Because most residents use propane, the township decided against buying aggregated natural gas, he said.
Cameron said he has talked with officials from a half-dozen local governments and acknowledged his efforts probably sparked some of the local interest.
“I do believe once a township does electric aggregation it gives others comfort to move forward. Local governments tend to be conservative and like to see someone else do something before we change our established practices,” he said.