December 21, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
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Electricity issue going onto ballot in May

Voters in a majority of Medina County’s townships will see an electric aggregation issue on the May 4 ballot.

County Commissioners voted Monday to approve the issue, which could result in energy savings for residents and businesses in 12 townships.

Commissioner Steve Hambley said three more townships — Litchfield, Liverpool and Lafayette — might ask commissioners to put the issue on the ballot before the Feb. 18 filing deadline.

There are 17 townships in the county. Spencer and Homer townships, where all residents are served by the Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative and would be unaffected by the aggregation, will not vote on the issue.

Other residents served by LMRE also would not be affected by the program but may see the issue on the ballot. Besides Spencer and Homer townships, LMRE serves the village of Spencer and parts of Chatham, Lafayette, Harrisville, Litchfield, York, Liverpool and Westfield townships.

Terry Mazzone, LMRE’s communications director, said the co-op will send letters to its members in the areas that will see an aggregation issue on the May ballot.

“We said, ‘Go ahead and vote for it and help save some money for your neighbors,’ ” Mazzone said.

Aggregation

Aggregation would allow the county to buy electricity collectively for residents and smaller businesses. The savings would come from the generation and transmission of electricity. It would not stem from distribution, which is generally provided by Ohio Edison to those eligible for the aggregation.

“It doesn’t change billing. It doesn’t change anything. It’s just a matter of where the electricity is coming from,” Hambley said.

Hambley said big businesses and institutions are often able to bargain for energy with providers because they use a lot of electricity.

“Unless you put all the residents together and aggregate them, you can’t do that,” he explained.

He said aggregation could save residential users about 6 percent and small business users between 3 percent and 4 percent. If approved, the program would start this year and end in 2019.

Residents would be able to opt out of the program at the start and every three years thereafter.

Last time around

The county placed an electric aggregation issue before township voters in 2000. To pass, at least 50 percent of voters in the unincorporated areas had to approve it, but only 49.4 percent did so.

Hambley said the issue was favored in some of the more densely populated townships, such as Brunswick Hills and Montville. It failed in the more rural townships, many of which are served by LMRE and ineligible for aggregation, he said.

Hambley said voters who were served by LMRE may not have understood they would be unaffected by the aggregation.

This time around, the issue will be decided on a township by township basis.

Provider

Hambley said commissioners hope to vote by the end of the month on who the county will work with to provide the aggregation.

“My view is that we will have this decided so we can tell voters what they’re voting on,” he said.

There are two groups vying for the county’s contract. FirstEnergy Solutions, in cooperation with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio and Toledo-based consultant Palmer Energy Co., have proposed an aggregation program to the county as well as Twinsburg-based Buckeye Energy Brokers.

FirstEnergy and the CCAO have offered guaranteed savings from their usual price per kilowatt hour. Residential customers would save 6 percent and small businesses would save 4 percent.

Diane Francis, spokeswoman for First Energy Solutions, said all the electricity would be generated by First Energy Solutions.

Tom Bellish, president of Buckeye Energy Brokers, said the savings offered by his company would not be a flat rate. He explained the company negotiates with different energy providers to get lower rates for customers. In some cases, he said, the company has received as much as 8 percent savings.

“We think the pricing can be just as good if not better,” Bellish said.

Both groups also have offered a one-time grant to the county and each of the participating townships. Hambley said the county would receive a grant of up to about $270,000. He said the townships would receive double that amount to be divided among them.

“Obviously the one-time community grants will be very helpful this year with all the townships and the county,” Hambley said.

He noted the townships and the county could use the money any way they want.

Contact Maria Kacik at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@ohio.net.