This time of year, if you have followed my recommendation and have chosen Dominion Energy’s Standard Choice Offer (SCO) for your gas, here’s some information you may want to know.

The SCO is based on the New York Mercantile Exchange price on the third to last day in the previous month, plus the “adder.”

Every February, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio holds a competitive auction for the next yearly “adder.” That new formula goes into effect with April/May bills, depending on your billing cycle.

The new “adder” is 22 cents per thousand cubic feet (mcf), up 15 cents from 7 cents/mcf.

While it is a little higher than last year and previous years, let’s put it in perspective. I looked back to 2008 and the adder was $2.33. That was the high. It has been steadily coming down; for a few years it was in the $1 range and even negative or close to wholesale in recent years.

It’s still pretty cheap. Even with a 15 cent bump, the average residential household uses 100 mcf a year, so that’s $15 a year.

So while we may see a slight increase in the SCO, I am still comfortable with the SCO and it is still better than many fixed rates. (The SCO beginning March 15 is $2.93/mcf, down from $3.02/mcf for February.)

If your bill has the letters “SCO” next to a supplier, you are good to go and you don’t have to do anything. You will continue to get the SCO unless you choose your own provider for a fixed rate or a variable rate from another marketer or through an aggregation, which is a government bulk-buying group. Every April, Dominion randomly re-assigns the winning auction bidders to customers, so you’ll see a new name on your bill, but it makes no difference to you and you will continue to get the SCO.

The winning bidders for the SCO are: United Energy, DTE Gas Supply, Direct Energy and Titan Gas. Additional suppliers may also decide they want to be SCO providers, so there may be a few other names on your bills. Just look for the SCO letters.

A few more notes:

You can read my step-by-step guide to getting the SCO and other important information, at www.tinyurl.com/updatedsco.

There is one SCO provider sending letters to customers asking if they want to switch to a higher fixed-rate plan, since they may not be their SCO supplier after the April switch. Stick with the SCO.

Postcards have begun arriving notifying city of Akron residents who did not opt out of the city’s aggregation deal with Constellation Energy that they will be switched. This includes those of you who chose the SCO and didn’t opt out by the January deadline. The city’s deal was for 5 cents below the SCO for March and April bills and a fixed rate of $3.09/mcf for May 2019 through November 2021 billing cycles. As a refresher, I said the deal was competitive, though you may be able to do better on the SCO. I am fine whether you stayed with the SCO or went with that plan. I still feel the same way, even with the new “adder.” To read my column about the Akron aggregation, go to www.tinyurl.com/akronagg.

Electricity update

People often ask about my advice for electricity offers. It’s not as simple as the SCO and natural gas. You can shop around at www.energychoice.ohio.gov and look for a fixed rate, comparing it to your “price to compare” on your bill, an individualized number that you would save if you switch based on your usage. If you switch, watch contract lengths, price and cancellation fees.

Most communities are under an aggregation with Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions. Last fall, FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), which separated from FirstEnergy Corp. and was seeking bankruptcy protection, had reached an agreement with Constellation to take the contracts and customers would see no change. In December, FES exercised its option to terminate the Constellation deal and continues to honor all contracts, the company said. The company is working on emerging from bankruptcy. If you have questions about your contract, call 888-254-6359.

Ohio Edison update

A reader asked recently about a free programmable thermostat he received many years ago from Ohio Edison and whether it was serviceable since the utility ended the program.

Ohio Edison spokesman Aaron Ruegg said it was part of a pilot program in 2007, then ran from 2010 until 2017. As part of the program, select high-usage electricity customers were offered the thermostat. In exchange, Ohio Edison could reduce air conditioning usage by temporarily increasing the temperature setting during peak usage times.

The program ended last February and the utility let the nearly 22,000 customers who received the thermostats keep them, but no longer services the thermostats.

Ruegg said there are other programs still available to help save energy and money, including:

A free Energy Conservation Kit, offering a variety of energy-efficient items including light bulbs.

A $50 incentive to get rid of older appliances and reduce energy consumption.

Home Energy Audits to provide recommendations for energy-saving improvements. Customers receive energy-efficient equipment with the audit and can qualify for rebates that cover the entire cost of the audit based on the amount of equipment installed.

Cash rebates and instant discounts on the purchase of qualified energy-efficient equipment and HVAC upgrades.

For more information, go to www.energysaveOhio.com or call Ohio Edison at 800-633-4766 for information about their energy efficiency programs.

Fussy Cleaners

In January, I wrote a column about Fussy Cleaners and its pilot program at its four Akron stores and Shaker Heights to stop accepting cash and checks. It caught the reader I wrote about off guard since she didn’t have a credit or debit card. General Manager Jason Long said so few customers paid cash and it costs money to have employees count cash drawers. He also cited safety.

Long emailed me this week to tell me that Fussy Cleaners has decided to once again accept cash and checks at all locations.

“We may have been a little too far ahead of the curve on this," he said. "Plus, our customers come first, we want to make sure each and every customer can do business with us in a way that is most convenient for them.”

 

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher