Here’s some good news: Dominion East Ohio has simplified the process for customers who want to choose the monthly variable price for natural gas called the Standard Choice Offer (SCO).
The SCO is the monthly variable price that is charged based on the state-approved formula, which is the previous month’s settlement price on the New York Mercantile Exchange plus a $1 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) adder. For those of you who follow the decision that I make each fall for my own gas account, you’ll recall that this year I am choosing to go with the SCO because the wholesale prices are so low this year and look to remain that way. (For the full stories, you can go online to www.ohio.com/betty.)
For instance, September’s SCO is $4.86/mcf and the price starting Oct. 11 will drop further to $4.76/mcf. Meanwhile, the lowest fixed prices on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s Apples to Apples charts (www.puco.ohio.gov or 800-299-7271) are $5.99/mcf with a $25 cancellation fee (Constellation Energy) and $5.77 with a $100 cancellation fee (Ohio Natural Gas). Those are still $1/mcf higher than the monthly variables.
Some of you have also asked whether you should stick with your own marketer, who is matching the SCO in a particular month or go with community aggregation groups. My advice is still the same — none of the marketers would share their pricing formulas or guarantee that their prices would always beat the SCO. So if you’re going to go with a monthly variable, why not just go with the SCO? You’ll have to make your own decision about whether you want to go with a fixed rate and whether that rate is low enough for you to feel comfortable.
So here’s the part that’s gotten easier. Dominion had originally said customers should not contact Dominion to cancel their current provider’s contract and request the SSO (Standard Service Offer) and the SCO. Dominion suggested that customers call their provider to cancel the contract, which would then bounce the account back to Dominion and then Dominion would randomly assign the customer to a provider for the SSO, which is actually an identical rate to the SCO. However, customers had to call Dominion by the third month on the SSO to request the SCO or they could be assigned that marketer’s own variable, which could be higher.
At the request of the PUCO, Dominion has now streamlined the system. You can call Dominion directly to cancel your current provider’s contract as well as request that you be put on the SSO/SCO at the same time. You won’t need to make multiple phone calls. That’s great news since it was very confusing to explain to people and for people to keep track of.
However, I would still recommend that you either know exactly what cancellation fee, if any, there is if you leave your current provider early or contact your provider to find out. You don’t want to be caught getting a bill for a canceled contract if you don’t know what’s going on. If, perhaps, you have a month or so to go on your contract before you are free to go without a cancellation fee, depending on how pricey that fee is, you might want to bide your time with that company and ask if you can get on its own monthly variable to ride out your contract until you can switch to the SCO.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.