Upper Arlington City Council is expected to hear the first reading April 23 of legislation that would enact an electricity aggregation program for residents and businesses.

Upper Arlington City Council is expected to hear the first reading April 23 of legislation that would enact an electricity aggregation program for residents and businesses.

Council members and city administrators discussed the proposed legislation at council's conference session Monday night, April 16.

The city originally received voter approval in 2000 to act as an electricity aggregator on residents' behalf, Finance Director Cathe Armstrong said in a staff report. However, no program was enacted at that time due to the existing availability of competitive providers and rates in central Ohio.

The possibility of an electricity aggregation program arose again last November, when First Energy approached the city with a new proposal. Council directed staff to solicit competitive bids for the program.

"The first round of responses yielded several proposals setting for a range of rates and fees," Armstrong said. "The review of the proposals led to the conclusion that two suppliers were primary candidates for the program.

"The two suppliers, AEP Retail and First Energy, have submitted a refined proposal for evaluation."

Armstrong said concerns remaining about the electricity aggregation program are that Upper Arlington's natural gas aggregation program that began in February 2005 did not generate anticipated savings.

"Residents also expressed resentment with the government's ability to choose natural gas suppliers for residents and the burden placed on residents to proactively opt out of the program rather than to join a program of their choice," Armstrong said.

Attorney Bill Adams, who has been assisting the city staff in evaluating options for the electricity aggregation program, said the electricity market tends to be more stable than the constantly fluctuating natural gas market. In addition, American Electric Power is proposing a rate increase, which is currently being evaluated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, he said.

That potential for a rate increase would make it beneficial for the city to lock in a lower rate through an aggregation program, Adams said.

"(AEP's) case now advocates a 6-percent increase that would go into effect this summer," he said.

Council members indicated that they would like to move forward with the electricity aggregation program on the condition that it would allow residents to opt out with a minimal termination fee or none at all.

"I'd like to leave all the savings with the residents," council President Frank Ciotola said.

City Manager Theodore Stanton said the city staff will ask First Energy and AEP Retail to refine their proposals to include a no- or low-termination fee clause and will include the updated proposals in the legislation that is scheduled to come before council on April 23.