To the Editor:
Commissioner Chmiel has done a wonderful disservice to Athens Countians by endorsing and promoting the SOPEC program. While most aggregations are designed to save consumers money, this does not.
Even though it’s partnered with AEP energy, an individual may get a lower rate simply by opting out of the program and asking for the 12-month non-SOPEC rate of 0.0415kWh. That’s almost a savings of 20 percent versus the aggregate rate of 0.05171kWh.
As chairman of SOPEC, Chmeil should have worked harder to get a lower rate for the aggregate group, in addition to sourcing the energy from clean renewable sources. Instead this offer states deep in the fine print “there is no guarantee of savings under the Aggregation Program.” Which is the entire point of having an aggregate – to save money.
The second disservice is the package itself. It isn’t easy to read or understand, so most people won’t bother with it. This is a horrible tactic that automatically enrolls customers into a terrible program.
Please, I urge you, the reader, to opt out of this program. And then to explain to your neighbors and friends why it’s not the best deal out there, especially now in these uncertain economic times. Hopefully, enough will say no and send Chmiel and SOPEC back to the negotiating table to get us a much better deal.
Editor’s note: We gave Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel an opportunity to respond to criticisms in this letter. This is most of that response:
“First off, it is true, currently AEP Energy has a 12-month deal for residential customers for .0415kWh. (0 percent renewable) and they have a .0425 rate (100 percent renewable). Basically, the energy markets have been declining since the COVID crisis. We signed our deal pre-COVID crisis. Due to the volatility of the energy markets, we have moved to buying power one year at a time to reduce the risks associated with dropping energy prices. (We decided to lock in a price when the recent Iran conflict started flaring up)
“But the thing Mr. Gryszka is really missing is that a majority of electric customers don’t participate in the energy market. Currently only 38 percent of the customers are doing this. All the other customers are with the utility AEP Ohio PTC/SSO (Price to Compare /Standard Service Offering), which equals $0.0527 per kWh until May 31, 2020. So the SOPEC price for the city of Athens is still lower than the PTC AND it includes the .002 carbon fee (which passed by 76 percent vote) and will help fund local governmental solar projects. All the other SOPEC communities without the carbon fee have a .04894 per kwh.
“So SOPEC is saving the people money on the PTC, which is really what we are trying to do. There may always be better deals out there for those who like to shop the market. But a word of caution to those people who shop: read the details of your contract. SOPEC has helped many residents and businesses look at those details when the deals go south. For example, last year SOPEC helped the Southeast Ohio Food Bank save tens of thousands of dollars by helping them get out of a bad deal. They are now a part of our Public Pricing Program (PPP) that local governments and non-profits can participate in.
“Also, SOPEC creates a lot of other community value by administering our community choice aggregation program. We keep some of the energy dollars in our communities by creating jobs, supporting community projects via grant match dollars, and much more.”