NOPEC switches half-million-plus customers to default utility provider

by Dan Holland

An unexpected spike in electricity costs earlier this year for customers of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) caused a stir among many residents around Northeast Ohio.

In response to the higher costs, the nonprofit governmental energy aggregator announced that it would temporarily remove 550,000 electricity customers enrolled in its Standard Program Price back to the default program through FirstEnergy Corp. to take advantage of lower electricity prices.

Customers will have the option to re-enroll with NOPEC in spring 2023 or can choose to continue receiving service from the FirstEnergy.

“Our intent is to do one of our traditional reenrollment mailings in the April-May 2023 timeframe,” explained Dave Jankowski, chief marketing and communications officer for NOPEC. “The letter will allow them the opportunity to opt out … if they prefer not to go back into the aggregation.”

In a media statement released Sept. 27, NOPEC listed rising energy costs in Europe, the war in Ukraine, global supply chain issues and hotter than normal summer temperatures as contributing factors to the sudden spike in prices. Jankowski also cited the timing and the manner by which energy commodities were purchased through auctions as contributing factors.

“[First Energy] had their auction completed; they had bought in the lower market,” he explained. “We had to buy some of our power after that because we have to adjust on a month-to-month basis to the ins-and-outs of customer acquisition and transition.”

“So, we made the difficult decision to drop 550,000 customers off our books and onto First Energy so that they could get 8-9 months of relief.”

According to Jankowski, NOPEC typically carries approximately 70-75 percent of energy customers in the markets they serve. A majority of communities receive both electricity and natural gas service from NOPEC. He said natural gas prices are unaffected by NOPEC’s recent action and remain low, as natural gas prices are established in “real market” time each month. He anticipates, however, that energy costs will go up across the board for all providers next year.

Jankowski noted that 40 other energy aggregators around Ohio temporarily dropped a combined 100,000 customers in similar fashion. NOPEC is the largest.

“NOPEC was uniquely qualified to do this because we are a nonprofit council of governments,” Jankowski continued. “I’m hoping in the spring, when offered the decision to reenroll, that people will come back to NOPEC, and we will continue to serve them with competitive pricing and all the other member benefits we offer.” ∞