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For starters, a community 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.
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Governmental aggregations allow an entire community, or groups of communities, 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.
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.
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.
With the assistance of a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (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.