What are Governmental Natural Gas Aggregation Programs?
Governmental Aggregations allow an entire community, groups of communities, or a county to join together to form one large buying group. Once voters authorize an aggregation, elected officials are then permitted to shop for natural gas on behalf of their residents and small businesses.
What are the benefits of gas aggregation?
As a large buying group, residents participating in an aggregation have more buying power. The aggregation is in a better position to negotiate favorable pricing and supply terms than what could ordinarily be achieved by any one individual resident.
What are the different types of aggregations?
In Ohio there are two types of aggregations. A community may conduct an “Opt-Out” program or an “Opt-In” program. With Opt-Out programs, each eligible resident is automatically enrolled in the program unless they notify the supplier that they DO NOT wish to participate. With Opt-In programs, each resident must notify the supplier to actively enroll in the program. Opt-Out Aggregations are the most common types of aggregation programs because they result in higher participation that usually results in lower rates.
What does a community need to do to become an Aggregator?
For starters, a community, or county in this case, must obtain the approval of voters to form a natural gas aggregation program. Community leaders are then permitted to proceed through a series of steps to become certified by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio as a Governmental Natural Gas Aggregator.
What are the key steps in an Opt-Out Aggregation?
With the assistance of a PUCO certified consultant, a community seeks bids from Certified Retail Natural Gas Service Providers. A qualified bidder is selected to supply the aggregation with its gas for a set period of time. An “Opt-Out” Notice is sent to each eligible community resident prior to the start of the aggregation. Each resident has 21 days from the postmarked date on the notice to contact the supplier to withdraw or “Opt-Out” of the program. After the 21-day period, any resident not opting out will be submitted to the utility company for enrollment in the program. The utility company will send notice of the pending enrollment to each participating resident. Each resident will then have 7 days to rescind their enrollment in the program by contacting the utility company. After the 7-day rescission period, all participating customers are officially enrolled in the program. The new supplier will appear on your natural gas bill within one to two billing cycles after enrollment is verified by the utility.
What is my price for gas?
The new 12-month rate for our program begins with November 2013 bill cycle and is $4.665Mcf. This rate compares very favorably to offers individuals can find on their own at this time.
Whom do I call if I have a problem with my natural gas service?
Dominion East Ohio (DEO) will continue to deliver your natural gas and maintain the pipeline system that brings it to your home or business. You will continue to call DEO 1-877-542-2630 for emergency repairs or gas leaks. For non-emergencies such as billing questions, service turn on or turn off, call 1-800-362-7557.
Who is the natural gas supplier for the County’s program?
IGS Energy was selected to serve our community’s program. This offer from IGS Energy is through the October 2015 bill cycle. IGS Energy is certified by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and currently supplies customers and Governmental Aggregation Programs across Ohio.
Will it cost me to join the program?
No. Enrollment in the program is free and you need not take any action. You only need to be eligible to participate. Please refer to the eligibility criteria shown below.
Is everyone eligible for the program?
No, by law there are certain limitations on eligibility. All of the current participants in our County’s program will receive a notice of the new program rates, terms and conditions and continue to be eligible. Newly eligible residents or businesses must be located within the Stark County limits. Furthermore, they must have received an Opt-Out Notice from IGS Energy. Here are the criteria for new member eligibility:
1. You must reside in the Dominion East Ohio service territory;
2. you must reside in an unincorporated Township inside Stark County;
3. you must not have already chosen a natural gas supplier on your own;
4. you must not be a PIPP (percentage of income payment program) customer;
5. you must not be in arrears on your bill payment; and
6. you must not be a mercantile customer (natural gas commercial accounts using over 500 Mcf/year).
Will I receive anything in the mail?
Yes. IGS Energy will mail informational packets to the groups of customers described below. These mailers should be received in September. They will explain the program rate, terms and conditions and means of enrollment.
1. An Opt-Out Notice will be sent to existing customers announcing the new rate. These customers do not need to take any action to remain in the program and receive the low fixed-rate.
2. An Opt-Out Notice will be sent to residents who have not selected a supplier on their own. By law customers supplied by Columbia Gas of Ohio are eligible to be automatically aggregated and added to the program. Customers in this group would need to opt-out if they do not want to participate.
3. A marketing mailer will be sent to residents who are currently supplied by other marketers. If these customers would like to participate in the County’s program they will need to contact IGS Energy to enroll.
Is there an initial enrollment period to receive our new rate?
Yes. IGS Energy will keep the enrollment period open as long as market conditions permit for those residents and small businesses who are supplied by other marketers. There is a 21-day Opt-Out period for those who are being automatically aggregated. The 21 days is from the time of the postmark on the mailer sent by IGS Energy.
How long is the program?
The County’s Governmental Aggregation Program can go on indefinitely. This latest offer from IGS Energy will end with your October 2015 billing cycle.
What if I receive an Opt-Out Notice and don’t want to participate?
While most residents will remain in, and benefit from, Governmental Aggregation Programs,the choice is up to you. If you do not want to participate you will have 21 days in which to return a reply card to IGS Energy or call them toll free at 1-800-280-4474. If you fail to do that, IGS Energy will continue to serve you or enroll you as a new customer. DEO will acknowledge the enrollment and send you a confirmation letter reminding you of the pending switch. That letter will mention that you can cancel the switch by contacting DEO within 7 days.
Will I get two bills?
No. For your convenience, you will continue to receive only one bill from DEO. It will show DEO’s delivery charges and the supply charge amount owed IGS Energy. DEO continues to read your meter, issue monthly bills and responds to all service calls.
Can I remain on budget billing?
Yes. If you are on budget billing you will remain on budget billing.
Can I exit this program without penalty?
Yes. A very attractive feature of our program is your ability to leave free of charge at any time for any reason. There are several “formal” opportunities to take yourself out of the program. First, when an offer is presented you will have 21-days to Opt-Out by returning a card to IGS Energy or making a toll-free phone call. If you do not Opt-Out, DEO will then send to new members a confirmation notice giving you 7 more days to cancel the switch. Furthermore, by law, you will be able to leave without penalty at least every two years. If you would like to leave the program at any time, simply notify IGS Energy at 1-800-280-4474.
My friend lives in a nearby community and has a different rate from IGS Energy than mine. Why?
Natural gas prices are highly volatile. Market rates change often and quickly. Price differences between communities will vary based primarily on the contract term and the dates on which pricing was secured for the community.
Can I enroll if I do not receive an Opt-Out Notice?
Yes. During the initial enrollment, any eligible resident that does not receive an Opt-Out Notice may contact IGS Energy at 1-800-280-4474 to enroll in the program. You may also go to www.igsenergy.com and enter the promo code.
Can I enroll after the initial enrollment period?
IGS Energy will always try to accommodate residents should they wish to enroll after the initial enrollment period. However, IGS Energy reserves the right to decline late enrollments depending on market conditions.
Can I enroll even if I currently purchase my gas from another supplier?
Yes, however your supplier may charge an early termination fee. All residents should check the terms and conditions of their current contract for more information. Once you understand your current contract obligations, call IGS Energy at 1-800-280-4474 and they will provide instructions on how to make the supplier switch.
What happens if I’m part of the program and I move?
A resident moving within the same community can stay in the aggregation by providing IGS Energy with their new address. If a resident moves out of the community or does not provide IGS Energy their new address, their participation will end and no early termination fee will apply.
This sounds complex. Is our community qualified to handle such a program?
We have retained Independent Energy Consultants, Inc., a PUCO certified broker and aggregator of electric and natural gas, without using any taxpayer money. They have designed, implemented, and administered similar successful gas and electric programs that impact over 100 communities across Ohio. We will have their assistance and that of IGS Energy throughout the program.
These FAQs help but I still have a question?
If you have additional questions please call IGS Energy at 1-800-280-4474, weekdays, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST. For general information on natural gas deregulation in Ohio, you can visit the Web Sites of the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel (www.pickocc.org), or the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (www.PUCO.ohio.gov). Please do not contact our offices. We are pleased to have made this program possible, but are not prepared to handle calls.