The Post - Athens

From November 2012 to November 2013, I worked as a beat report for Ohio University's student newspaper The Post. I mainly focused on Athens City Council and covered stories on local energy, transit, housing, and construction projects. 

Athens says yes to electric aggregation

By Cassie Kelly |November 6, 2013 

Voters in the city of Athens, and in the county as a whole, largely voted for government electric aggregation Tuesday night, and residents can expect to see changes in their electric bills as early as six months from now.

Issue 3, the city’s ballot initiative, passed 84 percent to 16 percent in a decisive vote to allow the city to purchase electricity with citizens at a price officials have said will be much cheaper.

Issue 2, a duplicate measure on the ballot throughout the county, passed marginally with 52 percent voting for and 48 percent against the measure.

Because both issues passed, the two entities can work together on an electric aggregation program.

Before any aggregation program could begin, there must be a few public hearings, after which city officials and county commissioners will draft an agreement contract based upon the community’s concerns.

If approved by city council, as would be expected being that most council members have in the past voiced support, the county and city officials will start to find a broker or company that can offer them a good deal.

“We are looking for a reliable energy source at fair market value,” said Councilman Steve Patterson, D-at Large.

A renewable energy source is a major goal, said Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward.

County Commissioner Chris Chmiel said he’s ideally expecting to see electric costs drop from eight cents per kilowatt-hour to five cents.

“We are trying to change the world one kilowatt at a time,” Chmiel said.

Although it was generally agreed upon that aggregation would be good for citizen’s checkbooks, there were some reservations among city and county officials Tuesday night about the environment.

“If the deal is cheap but they are polluting the planet, what good is that for the future?” Risner said. “I think most people would be willing to pay a bit more for a sustainable climate.”

The program would only be applicable to some residents living in the city of Athens. Elsewhere in the county, residents would have to pass their own ballot initiative to work inside the system to be created in Athens.

Because this is an opt-out program, residents will have to choose to not to be a part of it once they are added in. At the informational session Oct. 21, Bill Bradish, account manager of Palmer Energy Company, said no matter the length of the contract, residents have the option to opt out every three years.

Read the original story in The Post, here