As long as almost anyone can remember, the people of northwest Ohio have paid among the highest residential electric rates in the state, and even the nation. With some uncertainty surrounding the deregulation law that takes effect Jan. 1, voters can help strike a blow for lower rates by approving the so-called “aggregation” measures on Tuesday's ballot.
In Toledo, that means a YES vote for Issue 2. Elsewhere in Lucas County, it means YES on Issue 10 in Oregon, Issue 12 in Maumee, Issue 13 in Sylvania, Issue 15 in Holland, Issue 16 in Waterville, and Issue 30 in unincorporated (township) areas.
Approval of these issues will not put local governments into the electric business. It will combine residential customers into a group for greater leverage in negotiating discounted rates under deregulation. Any customer who doesn't wish to be included may simply opt out.
Aggregation will give residential electric consumers - united as one giant ratepayer - the same type of clout with power companies that industrial users enjoy.
The deregulation law, which, in theory, is supposed to let customers shop suppliers for the best rates, provides for a token rate reduction by Toledo Edison, but the state Consumers' Counsel, Robert Tongren, says approval of aggregation could lead to bigger bulk-rate discounts. He classifies it as “bait” for more potential electric suppliers to serve Ohio. Individuals alone will have no such opportunity.
According to the latest survey by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Toledo Edison residential customers pay the second highest electric rates (only Akron and Youngstown are higher) among the eight major cities. The average electric bill here is $87.20. In Canton, the lowest, the average bill is only $53.07.
While it's uncertain whether the promise of cheaper electricity held out by the industrial customers pushing the deregulation law will ever be fulfilled, area residential consumers can improve their chances by approving the aggregation issues at the polls on Tuesday.
Considering what they're paying now for electricity, it's a no-lose situation.