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Betty Lin-Fisher: Shopping for natural gas or electricity rates in Dominion, FirstEnergy area? Start here

Akron Beacon Journal 5/31/2023 Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal

Updated 5-11-2023

Note: This Utility Guide is a primer covering a lot of information about natural gas and some on electricity. The information is all accurate and the SCO pricing is updated monthly. To bookmark this URL to see monthly updates, use 

This column should give you all of the information you need to know (and maybe more than you care to know!) about how to save money on natural gas and electricity. 

If you've found your way here, chances are you are either a long-time follower of my natural gas picks or you are looking for the latest update on prices. If you're new to choosing natural gas and electricity rates, I've also got a lot of good information below. If you're looking for updates on what to do with electricity and the rising cost of Ohio Edison's rate in June 2023, skip down to the electricity section further down.

For the last several years before the fall of 2021, many of my readers and I chose Dominion Energy Ohio's Standard Choice Offer or SCO. That rate is based on a state-approved formula and changes monthly, but had been at near record-low wholesale prices, so we saved a lot of money.

But then in the fall of 2021, the SCO prices began to skyrocket, with industry experts saying the price could stay high for about year. In October 2021, I suggested to readers that it was time to find a good fixed rate or evaluate their community aggregation (most did not have good rates at the time).

More: Oct. 4, 2021: Let's put the recent increase in natural gas prices into perspective

Prices went all over the place. We were getting used to prices in the $3 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) range. The SCO went as high as $9.53/mcf in September 2022 and as low as $4.17/mcf in January 2022 and mostly everything in between.  

What's happening now with prices?

The latest Short-Term Energy Outlook on Feb. 9 from the U.S. Energy Information Administration anticipates the average wholesale price to be $3.40, down almost 50% from last year and about 30% from its January forecast. 

After September’s high of $9.53, the price went to $7.05 in October, $5.37 in November and $6.89 in December. In January, the SCO was $4.89 and the February SCO is $3.29. 

I wrote my last update for the newspaper on Feb. 19.

More: Natural gas prices have dropped: Here's what you should do to save money (Feb. 19, 2023)

The run-up in prices were a combination of things: low national natural gas inventories, increased global demand and exporting of liquified natural gas, which drives prices up, and global market volatility with the war in Ukraine. 

Last fall, there were worries about a particularly cold winter in the U.S. and Europe and natural gas inventory was lower than the normal five-year average, said Dave Jankowski, NOPEC chief marketing and communications officer, who watches the utility markets closely. NOPEC is a large aggregator or bulk buyer, with more than 450,000 gas customers in Summit County as well as some communities in Medina and Portage counties. 

There were also worries about a Russian embargo, which would partially cut off natural gas exports in Europe so conservation efforts began in Europe and prices began to spike, he said. The U.S. has had an unusually warm winter and conservation efforts in Europe worked, where temperatures have also been warmer, said Jankowski. 

Drillers, who had stopped or slowed drilling when prices were so low, started drilling when prices rose. 

“Now we have more supply than demand and the market has flattened back down,” said Jankowski. Though we’ve been lucky with a mild winter, even if there was a bitter cold stretch or severe winter storms, Jankowski said there is enough in storage and we are close enough to spring that he does not anticipate it would affect pricing. 

There’s also good news for pricing of the SCO. Each year, there is a new auction to set the “adder” price for the state-approved formula. The Feb. 8 auction price was 31 cents, effective April 1, up from 21 cents. That’s still really good, especially with wholesale prices coming down.  

That adder is still low compared to other Ohio gas utilities, said Ella Hochstetler, director of regulatory and pricing for Dominion Energy Ohio. 

So what's the latest advice?

All of the reasons above are enough for me to move back to the SCO. My community’s aggregation price was not appealing and I had locked into a $6.29/mcf fixed rate for 32 months with no cancellation fee with Direct Energy last fall after coming off a great $2.39/mcf rate the previous year. The February 2023 price is $3.29/mcf.

(5-11-23 update: The May SCO, effective May 12, will be $2.51/mcf. That is still a good price and my advice to get on the SCo is still the same. 4-9-23 update: The April SCO price will be even better than the March SCO price of $2.63/mcf. Effective April 13, it will be $2.38/mcf. My advice below still stands and is slightly updated with the cheapest fixed price at this time. If you have Akron's rate of $4.06/mcf, you could consider moving back to the SCO, but know it does go up and down.)

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer because it depends on your situation. For instance, what's your current rate, contract length and are there any cancellation fees?    

Here’s a few scenarios: 

  • If you have a higher fixed rate with no cancellation fee and you will save by going on the SCO, make the move. It will take one to two billing cycles to switch. Timing depends on when you call and if your order gets in before your next billing cycle. For the first two months after a switch, the price will say Standard Service Offer (SSO). It is the same price as the SCO, but includes delivery charges, which are normally a separate line item. The SCO price will be listed in small print. If you don't see the SCO by the third month, call to confirm.
  • Check your city’s aggregation plan. Some communities locked in to what turned out to be a low price before the price spikes. If you live or have a small business in Akron, the Constellation Energy aggregation is $4.06 fixed through November 2024. That’s still a very good price, so you could stay where you are and see if the SCO prices continue to go lower, or you can switch to the SCO. Call Constellation at 833-500-2738. Here's a few others: Stow $2.84/mcf fixed through March 2024; Hudson $4.05/mcf fixed through October 2023 and Fairlawn $3.59/mcf through October 2025.
  • If you live in a NOPEC gas community, which is a large portion of the Akron region, NOPEC's default or "program rate" is generally too high in my opinion, since they need to buy a few months at a time. (5-1-23 update: Their April price was $6.99/mcf and their June through August default rate will be $4.25/mcf, then it will move to a monthly price following market variable prices, said Jankowski). Similarly, I think NOPEC's fixed contract prices are too high. Move to NOPEC's variable program, which is 2 cents below the SCO. You specifically have to request that.  Take note that NOPEC must re-enroll you every two years for the gas aggregation, so if you do request that 2-cent-below-the-SCO price, you must re-request it every two years. To me, for about a $2 a year savings, that's some work to make sure you don't accidentally get put into the higher program rate. So either write yourself a note, or opt-out of NOPEC and move to the SCO since market prices are low.
  • If you are stuck on a high-fixed price contract with a high cancellation fee, you’ll have to weigh whether that cancellation fee is worth it. Take the difference between prices and multiply by 100 (the average annual mcf usage) to see the savings. 

Pull out your Dominion bill; do a checkup

A lot of people don't know who their supplier is or what rate you are paying. Or I've often heard from readers who made a choice years ago and then didn't do a check-up and were paying a much higher rate since most offers from marketers for even fixed rates will auto renew to a different rate unless you stay on top of things.

Often I get people thanking me after they finally got around to pulling that bill out, only to be shocked by the prices they really were paying because they let life get in the way. 

a woman smiling for the camera: Betty Lin-Fisher © File Betty Lin-Fisher

How is the SCO determined?

The SCO, a monthly rate determined by a state-approved formula, is determined by using the closing price on the third to last day of the previous month on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) plus an "adder," which is determined every February in a supplier auction. For 2020 and 2021, it was 15 cents/mcf, so near wholesale prices. It was 18 cents/mcf and for 2023, effective April 1, the new adder price will be 39 cents/mcf, which is still good.

Also, because it's based on a state-approved formula, the SCO is transparent, unlike marketers' variable prices.

That new formula goes into effect each year with April/May bills, depending on your billing cycle.

Customers who are already on the SCO don't have to do a thing. You continue to get the SCO unless you choose your own provider for a fixed rate or a variable rate from another marketer or through an aggregation, which is a government bulk-buying group.

Every year in April, Dominion randomly re-assigns the winning bidders in the auction to customers, so you may see a new name on your bill next to the SCO, but it should make no difference to you. 

Here's the latest Standard Choice Offer or SCO price:

The Standard Choice Offer, or SCO, and the price for Dominion customers who have not chosen their own provider or who are not in a community aggregation is $2.51/mcf when rounded up to the nearest penny, beginning May 12, 2023. It was $2.38/mcf in April, $2.63/mcf in March, $3.29/mcf for February, $4.89/mcf in January 2023, $6.89/mcf in December 2022, $5.37/mcf in November, $7.05 in October and $9.53/mcf in September.

All customers pay a fixed basic monthly charge, regardless of your usage volume. That cost is currently $42.43. In May 2023, that has included some increases, as stated below in the bullets. The biggest portion of that increase is due to something called the Pipeline Replacement Rider, to reimburse Dominion for a 25-year-long pipeline replacement program (The program may last longer than 25 years). Here's an article I wrote on May 14, 2023 that explains the latest increase for the project and the status.

May 14, 2023: Why is my Dominion Energy gas bill going up? Here's the answer | Betty Lin-Fisher

The monthly charge is broken down into these charges:

  • A Basic Service Charge of $17.58, which covers the fixed costs of delivering gas to their homes. 
  • A Pipeline Infrastructure Replacement (PIR) Cost Recovery Charge of $18.74 (up in May 2023 from $16.81 the previous year).
  • A Capital Expenditure Program (CEP) Rider of $6.07. The PUCO approved this rider December 30, 2020, which enables the company to recover costs associated with certain non-PIR and non-AMR capital investment.  
  • An Infrastructure Development Rider of 6 cents.
  • A credit of 2 cents for AMR Cost Recovery charge.  (May 2023- this was a 1 cent credit)

The usage-based charge, or cost to deliver the gas to your home, regardless of your provider, is $1.05/mcf.

For reference, if you like knowing all the details of each month's Dominion bills and watching the SCO price, watch for monthly updates at this website, generally early each month: and choose "Residential GSS-R" on the first box under "General Sales Service." The SCO is also listed on the top of the PUCO's Apples to Apples chart at

What about other charges on my bill?

All customers have a "Tax Savings Credit Rider," which began in April 2020. The credit was the result of a 2017 federal law that changed tax rates for utilities, which needed to return those savings to customers. Dominion was allowed to spread those returns over a 38-year period. It started as a $5.41 per month credit, which then went down to $2.61 per month with last April's bills. It is recalculated each year and this month, the credit will change to $2.47 per month with the April 2022 bill. See more information in the section below and in this story.

The Standard Choice Offer is the default rate for eligible residential customers and nonresidential customers with annual usage of 200 Mcf or less, who have not selected an Energy Choice supplier and who do not participate in a governmental aggregation program.

You can also sign up for price alerts via text or email from the PUCO when the Dominion SCO price changes monthly. You can sign up via a link on the Apples to Apples chart for the Dominion territory or here.

Here's some historical Dominion Energy Ohio SCO prices for the last several years:

Below, I have been keeping track of the SCO price for several years, but you can also see more historical prices at this Dominion link:


April $2.38/mcf; March $2.63/mcf; February $3.29/mcf; January $4.89/mcf.


December $6.89/mcf; November, $5.37/mcf; October, $7.05/mcf; September, $9.53/mcf; August, $8.87/mcf; July $6.73/mcf; June $9.08/mcf; May $7.45/mcf; April $5.52/mcf; March $4.72/mcf; Feb. $6.42/mcf; Jan. $4.17/mcf


Dec. 2021 $5.60/mcf; Nov. 2021 $6.35/mcf; Oct. 2021 $5.99, Sept. 2021 $4.52, August 2021 $4.19, July 2021 $3.77/mcf, June 2021: $3.13/mcf, May 2021: $3.08/mcf; April 2021: $2.74/mcf; March 2021: $3.00/mcf; Feb. 2021, $2.91/mcf; Jan 2021: $2.62/mcf


Dec. 2020: $3.05/mcf, Nov. 2020: $3.1, 5Oct. 2020: $2.25/mcf; Sept. 2020: $2.72/mcf; August 2020: $2.00/mcf; July 2020: $1.65/mcf; June 2020: $1.87/mcf; May 2020: $1.94/mcf; April 2020: $1.78/mcf; March 2020: $2.04/mcf; Feb 2020: $2.10/mcf; January 2020: $2.38/mcf;


December 2019: $2.69/mcf; November 2019: $2.82/mcf; October 2019: $2.65/mcf; September 2019: $2.47/mcf; August 2019: $2.36/mcf; July 2019: $2.51/mcf; June 2019: $2.85/mcf; May 2019: $2.79/mcf; April 2019: $2.93/mcf; March 2019: $2.93/mcf; February 2019: $3.02/mcf; January 2019: $3.71/mcf;


December 2018: $4.79/mcf; November 2018: $3.26/mcf; October 2018: $3.09/mcf; September 2018: $2.97/mcf; August 2018: $2.89/mcf; July 2018: $3.07/mcf; June 2018: $2.95/mcf; May 2018: $2.89/mcf; April 2018: $2.76/mcf; March 2018: $2.64/mcf; February 2018: $3.64/mcf; January 2018: $2.74/mcf;


December 2017: $3.07/mcf; November 2017: $2.75/mcf; October 2017: $2.97/mcf; September 2017: $2.96/mcf; August 2017: $2.97/mcf; July 2017: $3.07/mcf; June 2017: $3.24/mcf; May 2017: $3.14/mcf; April 2017: $3.18/mcf; March 2017: $2.58/mcf; February 2017: $3.34/mcf; January 2017: $3.88/mcf,


December 2016: $3.18/mcf, November: $2.71/mcf, October $2.90/mcf, September $2.80/mcf, August $2.62/mcf, July $2.87/mcf, June $1.91/mcf, May $1.95/mcf, April $1.85/mcf, March $1.73/mcf, February $2.21/mcf, January $2.39/mcf,


December 2015 $2.23, November 2015 $2.05/mcf

(If you live in the Columbia Gas territory, your pricing structures are different, but the principles are the same, so you can still follow my advice in making your choice.) 

How do I know if I'm on the SCO?

Pull out your Dominion bill.

You are looking for the price you pay, which is close to the MCF usage on your bill. Bills vary, but look on the left-hand column above "total current charges" for the correct section.

If your bill has the letters "SCO" next to a supplier, you are good to go and you don't have to do anything. As long as the bill says SCO, the supplier itself doesn't matter. Every year in April, Dominion randomly re-assigns the winning bidders in the auction to customers, so you may see a new name on your bill next to the SCO, but it should make no difference to you.

You will continue to get the SCO unless you choose your own provider for a fixed rate or a variable rate from another marketer or through an aggregation, which is a government bulk-buying group (make sure you read the aggregation section below).

You can also use an educational website Dominion has set up with pictures of sample bills, to help you find where your supplier costs are.

How do I get the SCO?

As you spot-check your bill, if you are still on a fixed rate, or higher than the SCO, find out how much time is left on your contract and if there is a cancellation fee. Some fees can be hefty — but you likely will save — if your rate is high.

The average household uses about 100 mcf of gas a year. Take the difference between prices and multiply by 100 to see the savings.

To switch to the SCO, call Dominion at 800-362-7557 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Mondays tend to be the among the busiest days, so perhaps pick a different day to call.

Tell Dominion you want to cancel your current provider and switch.

It will take up to two billing cycles to switch to what is called an "SSO" (the same price as the SCO). If by the third month, you don't see "SCO," call Dominion.

During the time you have the SSO, don't worry that the price looks higher.

Despite my advocating for Dominion to change their bill, it does not give you a separate line item for delivery charges, so that SSO price includes both the SCO and delivery charges, which everyone pays. In small print, it will list the SCO price.

One note: a PUCO change a few years ago means nonresidential customers are no longer eligible for the SCO and must choose their own provider or pay what's called the MRR or "monthly retail rate." You can read here for your choices if you're a small nonresidential customer -- and read a section below for more information

What if I just want a fixed rate?

You can research fixed and variable rates on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's Apples to Apples chart, or 800-686-7826. Make sure you choose "Dominion East Ohio" for your territory. 

To easily find "fixed" rates, use the filter on the left and choose "fixed" rate under "rate type" and "filter results." Then you can click on the arrow at the top of the chart under the column for MCF/$ prices and it will filter it from lowest to highest or vice versa.

Make sure you do not agree to a rate with a monthly fee attached or if you choose one with a high cancellation rate, you need to be willing to stick with the rate for the term.

Some of the offers were "special web offers" or only only for new customers or only if you bundled both your electricity and natural gas with the same company. Read the terms and conditions.

Some of the monthly variable prices sometimes look competitive to the SCO, but keep in mind most of the marketers don't have a formula they will share, so their prices could swing or they could offer a cheap price one month and high the next. They also may have a lag and are reporting last month's rate. Read this column I wrote about some people who thought they were getting a good variable price, but it turns out they weren't. (Followup: This marketer, PALMCO, doing business as Indran Energy, was banned from the state of Ohio for five years after a PUCO investigation. 10-11-2021 update: This company settled a second case with the PUCO and will be offering refunds.) I also tell readers who call me about a "great" fixed rate for say, six months to a year, that they just need to be careful if they take it, that they keep track of when the contract ends and what the rate will be after. Too often, I talk to readers who have gotten a great rate and then life happens and when they check their rate a year or so later, they find out they have been overpaying because after their original contract ended, they got moved to an unregulated variable rate.

It's important to remember that the Nymex is just an indicator of what the market believes prices will be. Variables like weather, storage inventories, use of natural gas for power generation and the like will inevitably cause actual prices to differ from those Nymex projections.

How do I switch from my current contract?

Make sure you know who your provider is by pulling your bill out. If you know the terms and conditions and whether there are any cancellation fees, then you don't need to contact your current provider. You can just sign up with your new provider and they will notify Dominion to notify your former provider. If you are the SCO, there are no fees to change. If you are unsure if the marketer you are with has a cancellation fee, call to ask. To figure out if the cancellation fee is worth it, the average residential customer uses 100 mcf a year, so take the difference between the two prices and multiply it by 100 to see if your potential savings would be worth any cancellation fee. This is also why I usually suggest only locking into a contract with a cancellation fee you are willing to pay. 

It takes up to two billing cycles to make any switch, so keep that in mind.

No crystal ball

Since none of us have that crystal ball to know exactly what will happen with prices, I can't give you the slam-dunk answer. Whatever you choose, if it is a competitive rate at the time, you are probably going to do fine and don't lose too much sleep over it. But stay on top of it and make sure you don't lose track and let your contract auto-renew to a really high rate. That's where you could get stung.

I heard something about a big credit on Dominion bills for some tax settlement?

I wrote a story on Dec. 5, 2019 about a tax settlement that Dominion reached with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and Ohio Consumers' Counsel. This was part of a federal law that reduced taxes for companies nationwide. By law, PUCO-regulated utilities in the state must return that money. Here's the information about how Dominion customers will receive their credits, beginning with April 2020 bills. Also, I received some follow-up questions from readers: If you've moved away from Dominion territory, you do not retroactively or separately get your refund. All PUCO-regulated utilities were required to reach a settlement regarding how they'd return the credits, so if you move to another utility in Ohio, you would get the credits through that utility, even if you are a new customer. Same with someone moving into Dominion territory. Also, municipally-owned utilities, like Cuyahoga Falls, don't pay the federal corporate tax or collect it from customers, so would not have any credits to return.

Dominion is allowed to return the money over a 38 year period. The first year had a larger credit of $5.41 a month, followed by $2.61 per month in 2021. Beginning with April 2022 bils, the credit is $2.47 per month.

More: Dominion East Ohio tax savings credit goes from $5.41 to a month to $2.61

What is an aggregation?

I've written a lot about aggregations, or bulk-buying via communities, but there still seems to be confusion about them. Community officials created aggregation groups in the early 2000s, after voters passed ballot measures allowing the groups to be formed to shop for gas and electricity. Officials have told me over the years that they do their best to get the best price, but there's no guarantee that the price is the best or will beat what you can get on your own, or lately with the SCO. Aggregations automatically include community members who haven't actively chosen their own fixed rate or variable rate supplier.

For those who have "chosen" the SCO, for aggregation purposes, you're still included in the aggregations, unless you opt-out, so make sure you don't ignore those notices.

If you inadvertently get switched to an aggregation, call Dominion and say you want to switch back to the SCO. Aggregation contracts typically don't have cancellation fees or if they do, a low one.

Aggregations are on different cycles, but many renew in the fall. They also have different rules based on the local legislation. Some will let you in at any time, called an opt-in. But some will only allow you in during the open-enrollment period, which is when you must opt-out or automatically be included. Check with your local aggregation or community.

Several communities' aggregation prices, which were locked in for several years when prices were low and before the 2021 and 2022 run-up in prices are competitive or worth looking at. But some don't have competitive rates, so check.

I was not an initial fan of the city of Akron's aggregation, which in October 2021 was going to mirror the soaring SCO through the winter months before coming down to a $4.06/mcf fixed rate in May 2022 bills through November 2024. However, after prices soared, Akron's $4.06/mcf is good and may still be competitive with late winter/spring 2023 SCO prices. Details on how to get that can be found above.

April 24, 2022: Natural gas prices continue to seesaw; here's the latest advice|Betty Lin-Fisher

A large aggregation group in our area is NOPEC, or the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council. The consortium includes parts of Summit County, much of Portage County, parts of Medina county and Stark county.

Summit County townships and the city of New Franklin joined NOPEC beginning in October 2017. The newest community to join NOPEC is Cuyahoga Falls in early 2018.

NOPEC has some communities that are both natural gas and electric - many Portage County communities and a few Medina and Summit— but a large majority in Summit are gas-only communities.

Summit County's gas aggregation contract is NOT for ALL communities in the county; most have their own aggregations. Here's a map to check on your community.

NOPEC has traditionally offered two programs to its natural gas customers: what it calls its "Program Price," which is typically competitive with the market and can change anywhere from monthly to every 60 days or so.

Click here for the latest NOPEC prices and read my advice above about the latest.

NOPEC also has separate electric rates for participating communities (not all natural gas NOPEC communities are electric).

For the latest advice about NOPEC, look above in the column.

If you are not currently a NOPEC customer or live in a NOPEC community and you want to join, it takes some extra steps. You must first cancel any separate contract you have and return to Dominion’s SCO (once you cancel you’ll go back to Dominion automatically) and then NOPEC will send you an opt-out notice in its next mailing, which is usually every other month.  (You can check for a full list of gas and electric communities or call 855-667-3201.) 

Permanently opting out

Customers on the SCO or those who don't have their own contract with a natural gas provider are automatically included on lists Dominion is required to share with retail marketers and aggregation groups. If you don't want on those lists, opt out through Dominion. Go online here to choose to opt out of the "Eligible Customer List" or call 800-362-7557 or write Dominion at Box 5759, Cleveland, OH 44101-0759.

Tell them you want to get off the "Eligible Customer List."

I've done this so that I don't accidentally get grouped into my community's aggregation contract, if I happen to miss the opt-out notice in the mail.

This doesn't mean all gas offers by mail will end. I still get some offers, likely because I'm still on some mailing lists as a former customer.

But it also proved a disadvantage to me in October 2021 when I was considering whether to rejoin the aggregation for my NOPEC community at the next enrollment date when pricing was rising. Because I had opted out of communication, by the time I get off the Dominion list and maybe back onto a list with NOPEC, it could take four months. So I'm likely going to get off the Do Not Market list to give me the option later, should I want it. This is a slight quirk with NOPEC communities since not all have legislation that allow people to opt-in when they want. NOPEC officials are working with communities to propose changing legislation, but have to do it in each community.

If you are not currently a NOPEC customer or live in a NOPEC community and you want to join, it takes some extra steps. You must first cancel any separate contract you have and return to Dominion’s SCO (once you cancel you’ll go back to Dominion automatically) and then NOPEC will send you an opt-out notice in its next mailing, which is usually every other month.  (You can check for a full list of gas and electric communities or call 855-667-3201.) 

Budget billing explained

Budget billing is an option offered to give customers a way to have consistent payments by estimating usage based on normal weather, historical consumption and the customer's rate at the time of enrollment or during the annual review in May. A review is also conducted in November to make any necessary adjustments to minimize large over-or underpayments for the annual true-up in May.

It's a way for customers to spread out the costs of their heating bill over the course of a year where they will be paying the same amount year-round instead of paying the high actual costs during the winter. It also means that during the summer months when very little natural gas is being used, you're paying a higher amount.

I have been using budget billing for years and find it very helpful so I don't get huge swings in my bills during the winter heating months. 

What about nonresidential, nonprofit, church or small-business accounts?

If you are a small business or nonresidential account, such as a church, the state eliminated the SCO choice for you in 2013.

The PUCO allowed Dominion to eliminate the SCO for commercial or nonresidential customers. Consumer advocates at the time said removing the benchmark was unfair, and the system wasn't broken. Dominion officials said the market could become more competitive if the SCO wasn't available to commercial customers.

Those customers had to take either the Monthly Variable Rate or MVR, which was that non-regulated monthly variable that was super high, or find their own rate.

As of Feb. 2020, there's good news. Again, read my full column on this, but I will try to summarize below as well.

But for small non-residential customers who use 200 mcf a year annually, you can get the SCO as your default and will automatically be switched if you are currently on the MVR.

A second set of customers affected in this proposed settlement are non-residential accounts that use a total of 200 to 500 mcf a year.

For these customers, if they return to Dominion from a supplier, they will not automatically get the SCO, but a new rate that replaces the MVR called the MRR or Monthly Retail Rate. That rate has been set up with some "guardrails."

Marketers who want to have customers on the MRR rate each month will put in their rate. The MRR rate for that month will be the median or the middle price of all those that are turned in.

So, for instance, if there are an odd number of marketers, like 9, the price in the middle, or the number 5 price will be the MRR price for the month. If there are an even number of marketers, like 10, the MRR price will be the average of the two in the middle, or prices 5 and 6. What should encourage the marketers to put in a competitive price is they all must charge the median MRR price and the marketers whose bids were above that price that month will also not get any new customers.

As part of the settlement, customers in this second set will get the MRR automatically if they return to Dominion — but they are allowed to ask for the SCO, which is good; non-residential customers have not been eligible for the SCO since 2013.

Unfortunately, nonresidential customers who use 500 mcf or more a year were the losers in the settlement. These users (your larger businesses and in many cases churches, depending on size) are not allowed to ask for the SCO, so their only choices are the MRR or choosing their own provider with a marketer or perhaps an aggregation. For instance, my church is going through an aggregation of other churches, but recently started looking into getting into a city aggregation.

There's a provision in state law for nonprofits that use more than 500 mcf (and are usually not allowed into government aggregations because of their size) that would allow the nonprofit to request an exemption to be added to the government aggregation. To do that, contact the PUCO at 800-686-7826 or fill out this "nonprofit declaration form" on the PUCO website. That may be a choice to get you a better rate, especially if your community's aggregation price is good since nonprofits can't get the SCO. There's no "approval" needed for the form, but you do have to fill it out with the PUCO. (Rules are slightly different for electricity and nonprofits or larger accounts do not have to fill out PUCO paperwork. You can call your community aggregation and you are allowed to opt-in to an aggregation, but your organization will not be included in any opt-out mailings per state law -- or those mailers that come every few years.)

Another option is to check with an association, such as your church denomination, regional conference, or other small group, to see if they have created an aggregation group or bulk buying group to save on utilities. Some church denominations participate in aggregations. If you do choose a variable, since wholesale rates are cheap now, know that most companies don't share how they determine their variable rates, so you'll have to keep an eye on them.

a group of people on a wire: Inside a bucket above the the street, a lineman for Ohio Edison gets ready to reconnect a wire that came down in 2018 in front of Hoover Price Campus Center at Mount Union in Alliance. © Gayle Blair/Alliance Review file photo Inside a bucket above the the street, a lineman for Ohio Edison gets ready to reconnect a wire that came down in 2018 in front of Hoover Price Campus Center at Mount Union in Alliance.

What should I do about electricity prices or contracts?

People often ask about my advice for electricity offers. I have written an updated column on April 9, 2023, explaining why default prices for customers who buy directly from the utility Ohio Edison and do not choose their own rate or one through a community aggregation will double in June. Read the column here.

More: April 9, 2023: Here's what to do about doubling electricity prices | Betty Lin-Fisher

More: How to read your Ohio Edison electric bill

March 25, 2023 update: FirstEnergy default electricity prices will double in June. Here's why

What should I do? 

Check to see if you are in an aggregation. I’ve listed some below and some websites to check. You can also search on the Internet by putting in your community and “aggregation.” If your community has one, call the provider to see if you can get in and if there are any cancellation fees. There are often no cancellation fees or they are minimal, around $25. Each contract has different rules. 

Your mailing address does not necessarily mean you can join that aggregation. For instance, a lot of communities have Akron mailing addresses, but that doesn’t mean you can be in the Akron aggregation. A good rule of thumb is where you vote.

Many communities in our area are also under an aggregation with Energy Harbor, which formed a company after former Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy and kept its contracts. It is no longer affiliated with FirstEnergy.

Many communities in the Akron region have contracts with Energy Harbor. Use this web page to search: or call 866-636-3749.

Another potentially confusing thing with aggregations is the contract term length. 

For instance, several communities in our area have contracts with Energy Harbor through May 2024 or May 2025.

I reported that Akron’s aggregation price is 4.97 cents through May 2025. That is accurate, though readers told me when they called Energy Harbor, they were told it was only through May 2024. Energy Harbor's website also says May 2024. 

Both the city of Akron and Energy Harbor have confirmed that the price is fixed through May 2025. Agents for Energy Harbor have told some readers the contract is through May 2024 because rules governing aggregations only allow contracts for 36 months. Every three years, all eligible customers are sent another opt-out notice and automatically included unless they opt out. Customers already enrolled in the aggregation don’t have to do anything to stay in and get that rate. Akron officials said they are working on negotiating the rate for after May 2025. Several other communities also have a price locked in through May 2025.

Here are the Summit County communities. All are fixed contracts: 

Akron: 4.97 cents through May 2024 (price fixed through May 2025) 

Boston Heights: 4.93 cents through May 2024 (price fixed through May 2025) 

Barberton: 4.97 cents through May 2024 (price fixed through May 2025) 

Green: 4.91 cents through May 2024 (price fixed through May 2025) 

Stow: 4.92 cents through April 2024 (price fixed through April 2025) 

Summit County townships (with the exception of Sagamore Hills, which is in the NOPEC aggregation This also includes the Village of New Franklin): 4.67 cents through May 2024. (the price is NOT fixed beyond 2024. This is also only townships in the county.) 

Tallmadge: 4.96 through May 2024. (price fixed through May 2025) 

If you are helping your church or non-profit that does not qualify for residential pricing with bills and energy supplier choices, read the information above about churches for gas and there is information about electricity and aggregations.

Isn't Energy Harbor in the news a lot?

On Aug. 8, 2020, I wrote this column in response to readers asking whether they should look for a new electricity provider in light of the July 21 arrest by federal agents of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four other men, including lobbyists for FirstEnergy Corp. and its former subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions, known as FES.

On Feb. 14, 2021, I wrote another column that addressed the scandal and was a primer on FirstEnergy and electricity. It also addressed Energy Harbor.

More: Betty Lin-Fisher: Here's a primer in electricity. Lights will stay on despite utility scandal

There are often calls or offers that marketers send to your house offering a free month of electricity or saying they're cheaper than the utility. Make sure you're doing your proper research. Often, their prices are not cheaper, even with one month free.

Also, remember that only about 55 percent of an electric bill, called the generation portion, is "shoppable" for customers looking for the best rate. The other 45 percent is set by regulators and cannot change.

What is the price for NOPEC communities?

Another big aggregator in our area is NOPEC, which has natural gas and electricity communities in Summit, Portage and Medina counties. Last August, NOPEC made an unprecedented move and returned its 550,000 electricity customers to FirstEnergy utilities, saying they would save money because the default price was cheaper (before the latest auction). NOPEC said it intended to re-enroll the customers this spring when they could offer competitive prices.   

In March, NOPEC began sending re-enrollment letters to 650,000 customers in 205 communities offering a 6.42 cents/kwh rate for six months beginning in June. The price will change after that. Customers will automatically be included unless they opt-out by May 2. 

To see if you are in a NOPEC electricity community, go to at, contact your local community or call 855-667-3201. NOPEC also has natural gas communities, but not all NOPEC communities are both natural gas and electricity. 

Other communities/public offers 

There are a few communities in our area served by municipal power providers, including Cuyahoga Falls, Wadsworth and parts of Hudson (parts of Hudson have Ohio Edison and Hudson does not have an aggregation). Residents in communities with their own municipal power are not eligible to shop around for their own electric power, so this does not apply to you.  

The city of Fairlawn is with Dynegy at 4.97 cents through May 2025. 

If your community doesn’t have an aggregation, you can shop for the cheapest rate on the Apples to Apples chart at There are several providers who have cheap rates, but then charge you a per month “fee” and have a high cancellation fee. I don’t think those are worth it, so I would look for a good fixed rate with a cancellation rate you can live with or no cancellation fee.

What do you think about "green" or "clean" energy offers?

Green energy is definitely more expensive and that's a choice you need to make since that is likely double the cost you are paying now. The way green energy has been explained to me is it is like water being put into a bathtub. If you pay for green energy, you are paying for cleaner water to be put into the bathtub.

You won't specifically get green energy to your home, but the water that comes out of the other end of the bathtub will be slightly cleaner with some green energy. You will have to make the decision whether you are willing to pay a premium for the green energy.

There is also a marketer that occasionally offers a "fixed monthly rate" of $49.99 for electricity (I have also seen it offer $59.99 a month and $39.99 a month). The average residential household uses 750 kw per month, so if you do the math of $49.99 divided by 750, that's 6.66 cents. Use that figure to do your research. You'll likely find a cheaper price by looking at other marketers and if you are in a government aggregation, you may already have a cheaper price.

If you want to look for "green" or "renewable" providers, go to the PUCO's Apples to Apples chart and go to Ohio Edison. Then on the lefthand side under search, choose "Renewable content" and the percentage of renewable content you are looking for (75%-100% for all renewable content). That will sort the providers offering green content. As always, weigh the pricing and any cancellation fees.

What do you think of the "protection" programs offered by utilities for various things like your water line?

My short answer is that it depends on the age of your home and what repairs you think it may need. This is not like typical home insurance or auto insurance, where it is necessary to have it. This is optional insurance and you need to read the fine print closely to see what it covers and doesn't cover.

If you have the discipline to put that $5 or so a month away in an emergency savings account, if you ever need it, you'll have it and it will have saved you a lot of money versus that monthly premium.

I once wrote a column about a reader who inadvertently paid for water line protection and sewer protection for years and he has no water lines. The company gave him a refund after I contacted them.

Beacon Journal staff reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or To see her most recent stories and columns, go to

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Betty Lin-Fisher: Shopping for natural gas or electricity rates in Dominion, FirstEnergy area? Start here

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