Electricity rate hikes show why community aggregation programs must make responsible reforms

May 22, 2023 4:30 am

An electricity meter. Getty Images.

The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) recently faced significant backlash after blindsiding more than 550,000 customers with soaring electricity rates. The increase, which saw bills skyrocket by over 65%, caught communities off-guard and left residents with more questions than answers. As NOPEC returns to the electricity aggregation business, it must take a hard look at its mistakes, prioritize transparency, and invest in renewable energy sources to avoid repeating this disaster. By embracing the benefits of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), NOPEC can work towards regaining public trust and creating a more sustainable energy future for its customers.

Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) operates on the principle of collective bargaining, similar to a group pooling resources for a shared goal. By joining together, communities can negotiate improved electricity rates and prioritize cleaner, greener energy options. This approach offers a dual benefit: combating climate change and protecting customers from market volatility. There’s no need to fear CCA; rather, it provides an opportunity for communities to take control of their energy futures and make choices that align with their values and priorities, ensuring a more sustainable and economically stable environment for all.

It’s important for us to question why NOPEC failed to warn communities of the impending rate hikes until bills arrived in mailboxes. The organization’s primary responsibility is to advocate for consumers, and such a lack of communication undermines public trust. In the future, NOPEC must prioritize open dialogue with its customers and local governments to maintain transparency and uphold its commitment to serving their best interests.

Despite the controversy, we should all acknowledge NOPEC’s efforts to advocate for consumers. In 2021 NOPEC secured a settlement from FirstEnergy, recovering $306 million for consumers. As the nation’s largest non-profit aggregator, NOPEC aims to provide affordable energy for its customers by leveraging the power of group purchasing. However, this role comes with the responsibility to adapt and evolve in the face of an ever-changing energy landscape.

To prevent future crises, NOPEC has taken steps in the right direction by hiring an experienced energy consultant. This new addition to the team should help the organization navigate the complexities of the energy market and secure competitive electric rates for its customers. However, NOPEC must also explore innovative strategies and long-term solutions to ensure that their customers aren’t left in the dark again.

NOPEC can avoid this in the future by investing in renewable energy sources. Renewable energy has become increasingly affordable, and its widespread adoption can help insulate customers from the volatility of fossil fuel markets. Sustainable Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) has demonstrated the potential for renewable energy, offering residents clean energy at competitive rates. SOPEC customers in Dayton paid 7.457¢/kwh compared to NOPEC customers paying 12¢/kwh. NOPEC must follow suit and invest in renewable energy to protect its customers from future price spikes and contribute to a more sustainable energy future.

NOPEC must address the financial burden imposed on its 550,000 customers by the recent rate hikes. The organization should explore options to make its customers whole, whether through rebates, discounts, or other means. This gesture of goodwill would not only demonstrate accountability but also help rebuild trust with the communities NOPEC serves.

As NOPEC resumes its role as an electricity aggregator, it must learn from its mistakes and embrace a clean energy future. By prioritizing transparency, investing in renewable energy sources, and making amends with its customers, NOPEC can regain public trust and fulfill its mission of providing affordable, sustainable energy to Northeast Ohio.



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Mark Gavin, Sr.
Mark Gavin, Sr.

Mark Gavin, Sr. is the owner of On the Mark Advocacy & Campaigns where he has led ballot and advocacy campaigns to advance renewable aggregation and climate justice throughout Ohio. He currently serves as the Director of Outreach & Senior Strategist at Black Environmental Leaders Association and Black Environmental Leaders Action Fund. Follow Mark on twitter: @MGavinSr.