Dominion gas officials say a billing error caused 124,500 Standard Choice Offer (SCO) customers to be underbilled in January.
The SCO price for the period from Jan. 14 through Feb. 5 was $5.01 per thousand cubic feet (mcf). For affected customers, an “inadvertent error” resulted in customers being billed at the December rate, which was $4.42/mcf.
For February/March bills, affected customers are being charged the 59-cent/mcf difference based on their usage for the affected period in January/February, plus applicable sales tax. It reads as “SCO Rate Adjustment” on the bill.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio was informed. Company spokesman Neil Durbin said “additional control procedures have been implemented to prevent this type of error going forward.”
On a separate issue, the large municipal aggregation group called NOPEC sent a mailer offering consumers choices that led to requests for advice.
NOPEC includes 173 communities, including several in Portage County and northern Summit County.
Aggregation groups were formed in the early 2000s after ballot measures allowing communities to form the groups to use collective buying power to save money on utilities.
Aggregations typically offer the rates to all eligible residents who have not locked in with their own provider, including SCO customers, who will automatically get included unless they mail in an opt-out form.
For NOPEC customers, the opt-out deadline is March 7.
NOPEC customers have two options:
■ Option 1 is a fixed rate of $4.342/mcf from April through June of this year. Then the price may become fixed or variable. NOPEC Executive Director Chuck Keiper said the intention is to lock in 60- to 90-day short-term rates because wholesale prices are low and long-term contracts are not attractive.
■ Option 2 is a variable monthly price, guaranteed to be 2 cents/mcf below the SCO price for a limited number of customers.
I think that either of these options is fine.
I continue to believe the SCO is the way to go, but if you have an aggregation whose prices are competitive or where there is a guaranteed saving — even 2 cents — then I don’t have a problem with that.
Keiper said either option is good, but in his opinion, “sans polar vortexes, I would take option 2, but given polar vortexes our fixed price is better … we’re very confident our fixed rate will always be in the game.”
NOPEC’s new supplier is Nextera Energy Ohio, part of the Florida Power & Light family, but NOPEC has requested a mainly Ohio gas supply.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3688 or email@example.com