Gahanna residents should expect to pay lower natural gas prices this winter, as a result of the Dec. 31 suspension of the "Opt-Out" natural gas aggregation program with IGS Energy.

Gahanna residents should expect to pay lower natural gas prices this winter, as a result of the Dec. 31 suspension of the "Opt-Out" natural gas aggregation program with IGS Energy.

In addition to Gahanna, the cities of Bexley, Dublin, Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington will suspend the program that allowed the cities to provide fixed-rate natural gas prices for their residents.

"The natural-gas market is at an all-time low now that there is more competition and choice for fixed-rate programs," Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said. "It just makes sense to suspend the aggregation program so that every resident can shop for the best rates available."

The Central Ohio Public Energy Council (COPEC), a consortium of communities, including Bexley, Dublin, Gahanna, Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington, notified resident and business customers last week that the aggregation program would be suspended on Dec. 31.

The COPEC letter told customers of the program suspension and options to either stay with Columbia Gas of Ohio as their natural gas provider and marketer or shop the market options for fixed- or variable-choice natural gas prices.

The COPEC member communities notified both IGS Energy and its third-party administrator, AMP Partners, of the pending program suspension in April, according to Brian Hoyt, Gahanna public information manager.

Suspension details and plans were finalized among all parties a few weeks ago, he said.

"At the time we formed COPEC, there was limited competition among natural gas providers, and prices were considered high and volatile," said Dana McDaniel, Dublin's deputy city manager and president of COPEC. "Our communities wanted more choice and a fixed rate."

Customers in those communities then were provided a "fixed-price" alternative to Columbia Gas' variable-rate program.

The COPEC communities intend to retain the option to serve as aggregators in the future and will continue to monitor natural-gas prices and competition.

More than 24,000 customers are enrolled in the COPEC program. Consumers can compare natural-gas rates by supplier by visiting the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's website at www.puco.ohio.gov.