Due to changes in market conditions last summer, Oak Harbor Village Council shelved implementing a gas aggregation program it had hoped would save residents up to 8% on monthly utility bills. In light of the volatility of today’s market, the Village chose to implement the program at its March 7 Village Council meeting and passed an emergency resolution to accept a fixed rate from supplier Constellation NewEnergy.
Natural gas contracts can be fixed or variable, which is what the Oak Harbor Council originally considered in 2021. Jay Sell of Aspen Energy provided Council with details regarding a 36-month contract with a fixed rate of 58.9 cents per 100 cubic feet (ccf). The set price would apply to residential and small businesses (using 5,000 ccfs or less) which are currently on the Columbia Gas Ohio Standard Choice plan.
Council chose the fixed rate contract with the goal of providing residents some immediate energy savings and to bring stability to an otherwise unstable natural gas environment. As of Monday, the fixed rate would offer around a 9% discount off customers’ current gas supply cost.
“The natural gas market has gone through the roof,” said Sell. “We’ve seen the highest rates we’ve seen in 15 years. There’s a lot of uncertainty with the Ukraine situation … whether or not we’re going to need to ship out more liquified natural gas than we do currently to Europe and other parts of the world.”
According to Sell, gas prices for residential customers within the Village peaked at 80 cents per ccf this winter, but right now they are at about 65 cents per ccf. This contract will allow the Village to actualize a projected savings by getting the steady secured rate of 58.9 cents per ccf from Constellation NewEnergy.
“You’re trying to set a price that would be a savings during the wintertime,” added Sell. “With all the uncertainty out there, this would be security.”
The intent of having a natural gas aggregation program is to allow the Village to bargain as a unit to achieve a “bulk discount” and better pricing for all Oak Harbor residents. As a single customer on Columbia Gas’ system, residents do not have bargaining power and must accept the price given or look for another supplier.
Natural Gas Aggregation programs may be implemented in villages in Ohio, but only if approved during an election. Oak Harbor residents voted to approve the program last November but, due to the market conditions at that time, the expected savings were not realized.
“Council acted decisively to achieve security during a volatile time in the energy markets,” said Mayor Quinton Babcock. “If rates would ever drop below what is in our contract, residents have a standing option of returning to their existing Columbia Gas pricing, which rises and falls over time.”
Now that a gas aggregation resolution has been passed, the process of switching gas suppliers will happen automatically. Oak Harbor residents will have the freedom to opt out at any time (with no opt out fees), making the program a win-win for everyone. Residents will still use Columbia Gas’ infrastructure. Billing, service, and meter reading will all operate through Columbia Gas, and the only noticeable difference for the resident will include a one-line change on monthly utility bills, noting the gas supplier and price. Additional details and an opt-out notice, for anyone not interested in utilizing the program, will be sent from the Village via mail.
For additional information, visit the Facebook page, utilize the “Contact Us” form at oakharbor.oh.us, or call Oak Harbor Municipal Administrative Offices, 419-898-5561. Contact information for each council member is provided on the website, and Mayor Babcock may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.