COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — columbia gas is in the middle of a yearlong case with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to raise its rates. The company wants to increase fees to generate about $212 million each year from its customers. That’s much higher than a staff report from regulators at PUCO and consumer advocates said it should be.
But a deal has been reached to reduce the amount of the increase. The agreement could be approved by PUCO commissioners at a hearing on Thursday night. But some critics say the deal doesn’t go far enough. One of those is the Environmental Law & Policy Center. It says the deal cuts energy efficiency programs.
ELPC also says the new rates won’t make up for the cost of a rate increase. It claims it will still be too expensive for many consumers. But a spokesman for Columbia Gas says the rate increase is needed to help pay for infrastructure improvements and other costs. The new rate is expected to take effect in the December 2022 billing cycle. It’s then expected to transition to a fixed monthly rate in the March 2023 billing cycle.
In addition to the new supply price, the City’s aggregation program offers an online “apples to apples” tool where residents can compare a variety of supplier prices for their residential and small commercial natural gas service. The tool can be accessed here.
While the aggregation program is administered by NOPEC, it’s possible that some residents have already chosen to participate in other supply options through their provider or in the state’s deregulated energy market. To find out if your home or business is currently in an alternate natural gas supply program, check the name of your supplier on your recent Columbia Gas of Ohio bill. If it’s not listed, you are likely participating in the city aggregation program with NOPEC/NextEra.
If you’re interested in choosing your own natural gas supplier, there are a number of PUCO-certified suppliers to choose from. The popular choice is Shipley Energy, which offers a low variable rate with no hidden fees. Regardless of who you select to provide your natural gas, your utility company will continue to deliver the gas and maintain its pipeline system. You can contact them for questions about delivery of the fuel and any concerns related to the quality of your service.
In the past, all Ohio natural gas providers were regulated monopolies that set their own rates. But after deregulation, independent suppliers like Shipley were allowed to enter the market. They buy and sell the commodity, while utility companies like Columbia Gas of Ohio still deliver the natural gas and maintain their infrastructure. They also handle customer service issues. If you’re a Columbia Gas of Ohio customer, you can learn more about your options with their Customer CHOICE program. You can also shop around for better prices by using the state’s “Apples to Apples” tool. Then you can pick a plan that works best for your family or business.