Upper Arlington is considering its options in terms of facilitating electricity aggregation services for city residents.

Upper Arlington is considering its options in terms of facilitating electricity aggregation services for city residents.

Representatives of FirstEnergy Solutions, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., proposed a program for city residential and commercial electricity customers during council’s conference session Nov. 21 that could offer discounted generation prices for those customers.

“This is a proposal by FirstEnergy to offer an opt-out program, where they aggregate all of the residential and commercial customers who don’t opt out — who haven’t chosen another electrical service — and offer those people a program a five percent discount if you’re a residential customer and a 15 percent discount if a commercial customer,” city manager Ted Staton explained to council before the presentation.

“In addition to that, there is a payment directly to the city for each residential customer that chooses not to opt out.”

Brenda Fargo, government aggregation program manager for FirstEnergy Solutions, told council that payment to the city would be in the form of a grant estimated at about $114,000, based on the assumption that about 80 percent of eligible customers would not opt out of the program.

Under Ohio law, communities are able to form governmental aggregation buying groups to arrange for electricity, natural gas, or both on behalf of their citizens, according to FirstEnergy information. The governmental aggregator chooses a supplier for all of the members in its group, and customers may opt out of the aggregation program and shop for a supplier or accept the standard rate offered by their utility.

Council discussed several issues the program might generate, such as how it would affect seniors and other residents on a fixed budget, whether the city should go through its full bidding process and look at comparable services, and whether many residents would miss the mailed notifications because of the time of year.

“I’m concerned about the number of our residents who are elderly and are getting ready to go to Florida,” finance director Cathe Armstrong said during the meeting. “But we contacted one community in central Ohio that has gone with this program, and they’re happy with it. The comments they had about the problems were the ones we’ve talked about – residents calling, the literature looked like junk mail.”

Council ultimately decided to go through the city’s regular procurement process, to see if other companies offer comparable services before making an agreement.

“I think if we go through our procurement process and this makes sense, it gives staff a little more time to look at issues such as people on budgeted incomes and those out of town,” council president Frank Ciotola said.