Your energy bills will increase this summer, but there’s time to switch suppliers

Photo by Fré Sonneveld

Electricity bills for FirstEnergy customers are forecast to increase significantly in June, but customers can fight back by choosing another provider.

FirstEnergy offers a default rate, but retail energy suppliers may offer more competitive fixed and variable rates.

In an April 19 press release, FirstEnergy said it is required to purchase electricity through a competitive auction process. The company does not control the price of electricity generation, which it claims it provides to customers at cost. 

“A typical non-shopping FirstEnergy Ohio residential customer using 750 kilowatt hours can expect to see an increase to their total bill of approximately 47% from May to June,” the company said in the press release. “The prices, which update annually on June 1, are seasonal, with summer pricing in effect for the months of June through August, and winter pricing in effect for all other months. Winter prices are expected to remain higher than those seen this past winter.”

A comprehensive list of suppliers is available at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio website.

FirstEnergy customers who do not choose an energy supplier are charged a default generation rate called a “standard service offer” or SSO. That’s the rate FirstEnergy will increase June 1. Customers who have chosen alternate suppliers or government aggregates will not be affected.

Time, however, is running short. It takes approximately two billing cycles to transfer energy suppliers, so even customers who choose one today would pay higher rates until at least mid-July.

People who wish to retain NOPEC as their electric supplier will notice new pricing schedules in June. The new pricing for natural gas will become effective in July, NOPEC CEO and Executive Director Chuck Keiper said.

Local officials in Portage County say they’re beginning to hear complaints from residents about the energy prices.

Referring to chatter he said he’s seen on Facebook, Randolph Township Trustee Nick Reynolds said people are blaming township trustees for the June rate hikes.

“All these people are frustrated, and I’m just not getting any answers. I can’t get to the bottom,” he said.

Keiper, who formerly was a Portage County commissioner, said the deal allowing all Portage County townships, villages, and cities to join aggregators like NOPEC became state law at the turn of the century.

Ohio law requires aggregators to send notices every two years to natural gas customers and every three years to electric customers asking if they want to opt out. People who have chosen other suppliers need not do anything, but NOPEC customers must respond or remain with the aggregator, Keiper said.

While NOPEC reserves the right to change rates on a monthly basis, Keiper said NOPEC offers multiple products at various price points, and people may switch products at will. Though no two-month window that would apply is completely seamless, customers would not notice any change until the next billing cycle, Keiper said.

Choosing NOPEC means no cancellation, early termination or switching fees, he said.

Non-NOPEC customers would do well to read the fine print in their suppliers’ contracts, he cautioned, noting that when the contract expires, people may not realize that they will return to FirstEnergy’s standard service offer.

Signing up with NOPEC, he said, could alleviate sticker shock.

“We are probably one of the most stable aggregators in the country,” Keiper said. “We offer more choices than anybody in this industry, so if your needs change over time, there’s probably a NOPEC product to suit your needs.”

NOPEC does not appear on the PUCO’s apples to apples chart, but people may contact the aggregator at www.nopec.org or through its U.S.-based, 24/7 call center at 855-667-3201.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.

  1. When I see so many “choices” with so many “variables” (and small print) concerning what is rather inarguably a necessary service – residential energy – my cynical and mistrusting nature screams out. NOPEC – FirstEdison (who paid bribes to a Congress person? wonderful!) – 3 different ‘companies’ under that tab, each with its respective list of 10s-plus of suppliers. Just crystal clear.

    Apparently the city and people of Kent went through the aggregation voting process before we moved here (a bit confusing itself), but regardless, I’m not sure if ‘Opt-in’ is better than the current ‘Opt-out’ plan. What does seem to be a question is: if the city is involved in this “choice”, where is the city in respect to making the best energy decision for the people of Kent? If that is not their role, then why is the city of Kent involved in this at all?

    I question whether so many choices concerning a necessary service is a good thing for The People when it reads more like a way for companies and individuals to conceive means to make a profit regardless of the ethics, perhaps even legality, of such a ‘choice’; the confusion looks quite intentionally built in. (And of course, if something is potentially illegal, one merely hires a lobbyist to pay off – er, ‘donate’ to – the state legislators to concoct law that benefits some Few to the expense of the Many, and make sure to include a lot of fine print.

    It makes one question the utility (pun intended) and public benefit of a deregulated energy state.

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