The numbers are in for the first few months of Worthington's electricity-aggregation program -- and the news is good for subscribers, officials say.

In the first five months of the program, which started in July, 4,000 households and small businesses who participated in the program saved about $46,000 on energy costs, said Rich Surace, COO of Energy Alliances, the consultant that coordinated the process for the city.

Put another way, the average resident saved about 4.2%, Surace said.

"Customers are saving money and the receiving power that is offset by 100% by renewable-energy credits," he said.

The energy-aggregation program was approved by voters in November 2018. Worthington City Council members David Robinson and Doug Smith had introduced a plan for the program earlier that year.

Because the plan was for an opt-out aggregation program -- residents automatically were enrolled and had to choose not to participate in the program -- it required approval by residents in a citywide ballot issue, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio website, puco.ohio.gov.

Initially, 85% of eligible customers participated in the initiative, in which energy is bought on the open market, not a fixed rate, Surace said.

Under Ohio law, residents may negotiate prices with energy suppliers individually. But by turning thousands of residents into one large "energy buyer," the city planned to add leverage in negotiations to ensure the price people pay for their energy supply was lower. Worthington has more than 14,700 residents, according to a July 2018 U.S. Census Bureau estimate.

Surace said aggregation customers, at the current rate, are expected to save $27 on previous energy costs for the first year, based on a forecast that predicts subscribers will spend $608 annually, as opposed to other customers, who will spend $635 in that period, he said.

American Electric Power Energy remains the power supplier and AEP Ohio is the company that provides the infrastructure and other business amenities associated with supplying power, Surace said.

AEP is the only other energy provider in Worthington, he said.

Residents who were not eligible at the beginning of the program may check their eligibility and enroll at enroll.aepenergy.com/acquisition/aggregation, Surace said. In addition, customers who want to opt out may do so at any time by calling AEP at 888-549-9008. More information is available at worthington.org/882/electric-aggregation.

Although the preliminary news is good, Surace said, electricity aggregation comes with potential pitfalls.

"It's a commodity; there is the risk there could be fluctuations," he said. "There is a risk for positive and negative fluctuations."

Worthington spokesperson Anne Brown said city leaders are glad to see so many people taking advantage of the opportunity.

"We're really pleased with the savings so far for the thousands of people who are participating," Brown said. "To be able to save our residents and small businesses money, while supporting green energy, is a major accomplishment and goes a long way toward the city's sustainability goals.

"For anyone who was not eligible at the beginning of the program, we encourage you to do your research and determine if the program is a good fit for you and your family to help save you money on your household electric bills."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary