There’s more good news for our low natural gas rates.
Tuesday’s auction to determine the next year’s “adder” for the state-approved formula to determine the monthly Standard Choice Offer (SCO) rate we pay for natural gas came in 40 percent lower than this year’s number.
As a refresher, the SCO rate is the monthly rate charged by suppliers randomly assigned to customers who choose the SCO rate through Dominion. The rate is determined by using the settlement price on the third to last day of the previous month on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) plus the $1 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) price.
Tuesday’s auction went nine rounds with 16 companies bidding to be the suppliers. In the end, three bidders won and the “adder” price was 60 cents/mcf, down from the $1/mcf adder now. So assuming wholesale prices stay low, as they are predicted to, our prices could come down even more.
The new adder will become effective with bills after April 1 and will be the price until the next auction, next February. If you’re already on the SCO, you don’t need to do anything. You may see your SCO provider’s name change on your bill in April. Three companies were the winning bidders in the auction, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio will not release their names for 15 days. I’ll keep you updated.
Even without the lower adder price for April, the SCO announced this week for March bills after March 13 is still dropping. It will be $3.45/mcf, down from $3.68/mcf for February bills and $4.08/mcf for January. Remember, the price changes around mid-month, so the price on your bill depends on what day your bill is printed.
This is a good reminder that if you haven’t switched to the SCO, you should. Sure, we’ve had a mild winter, and hopefully we’re getting close to spring, but with the prices this low, there’s really no reason why you should be paying higher prices or a fixed rate.
If you are with another supplier, you should check to see how much time you have left on your contract to decide when you want to switch. If there is a cancellation fee, while it will sting to pay it, you most likely would save more money with the SCO prices than you would pay with the cancellation fee.
The average household uses about 100 mcf a year on gas. So take the difference between the prices and multiply by 100 to see the savings.
To switch to the SCO, call Dominion (the phone number is on the top right of your bill or is 800-362-7557. Tell them you want to cancel your current provider and switch to the SCO. Remember, you have to ask for the SCO, or Dominion will move you to what’s called the Monthly Variable Rate (MVR) by the third month instead of the SCO, and that is whatever price the provider wants to charge you and not the state-approved formula with the cheap adder.
It will take up to two billing cycles for you to see the switch, first to the SSO (which is the same price as the SCO), then by the third month, you should see “SCO” on your bill with a provider’s name. If you see “MVR,” you should call Dominion to see if something is off.
There are quite a few communities who have negotiated new rates for their aggregations, or group-buying. There are a lot of aggregations out there, and I can’t always write about them all, but when they are of particular note, I’ll mention them.
My opinion is that with the low SCO rates and the state-approved formula and with that formula adder just going lower, I don’t think there’s anything out there right now that will beat the SCO. The same goes for the fixed-rate and variable offers from companies in the mail. I haven’t seen anything that will beat the SCO.
So I would opt-out of the aggregations. Remember, if you are on the SCO, you are most likely included automatically in the aggregations, so you will need to keep a look out for the letters coming in your mail and call the opt-out numbers.
Here’s a few that are currently in an opt-out period through Vectren Source:
The communities of Canton, Mogadore, Munroe Falls, Silver Lake and Stow have renegotiated two-year contracts with Vectren Source.
There is a little bit of confusion from the calls I’ve received from readers. While the aggregation is a two-year contract, the current fixed price on the letters of $3.84/mcf is only the fixed price for April through October bills. Then the communities will renegotiate.
The opt-out period ends April 12. There are different numbers for each of the communities, so check the information in your letters.
For the city of Green, customers can take Vectren’s monthly variable or 8 percent off its standard fixed rate, which would come to $4.59/mcf. The opt out is also April 12. Again, with the SCO going to $3.45/mcf, I don’t see the reason to lock into $3.84/mcf for the summer or to lock into a higher rate for longer.
A reader in Bath Township called to warn of what she thought was a scam. Bath police Chief Michael McNeely has confirmed his department has received similar calls and believes scammers are scouting homes in the area with security systems to see if people are home before a potential attempted burglary.
The reader received a call from someone saying they were with her home security company. The person did not actually identify the security company, but made it seem like they were from hers. The person said there had been an alarm at her home.
The reader said there was no problem.
The caller asked her to check her kitchen door. Again, the woman said there was no problem. She got suspicious, and that’s when the caller hung up.
When the woman called Bath police, she was told there were similar calls being reported and they would step up patrol by her house. When she contacted her security firm, she was told there were similar calls.
McNeely’s advice is to “Call back the security company with the number on their contract to verify the information.”
This week is National Consumer Protection Week. There will be a free event from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Firestone Park Library, 1486 Aster Ave., Akron. Experts from the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Summit County Office of Consumer Affairs will be there to discuss consumer topics and how to protect yourself from scams.