Despite the unseasonable warm weather, if we’re honest, at this time of year we know that winter weather is just one cold front away.
Looking at the forecast with back-to-back 70+ degree days for the first 2 days of November, I’m ok with a little temporary self delusion about what’s coming next.
Sadly, the other wool lined boot will eventually drop and keeping warm will be a priority — and furnaces — and the electricity that powers them, will be our best friend.
Those furnaces rely on a steady supply of power which is why the recent announcement by NOPEC that First Energy has pulled the plug at year 3 on their 9 year power supply agreement got our attention.
Nothing like standing on the brink of winter and having questions about power supply to get your attention.
The City of Kent isn’t in the power supply business but residents still turn to their City staff for just about anything utility related, including power.
So we do our best to stay in the “know,” keep in contact with NOPEC and First Energy staff, and participate in power supply discussions around our region.
About 15 years ago, Kent signed on with 200 of our favorite neighboring northeast Ohio communities to give Kent residents a chance to pool their electric purchasing power and put a little friendly pressure on power suppliers to sharpen their rate pencils and offer discounts through NOPEC‘s cooperative purchasing contracts.
It may be pennies on the kilowatt but volume based buying adds up — saving a reported $218 million for NOPEC’s members on their electric bills.
On the consumer end, power supply has been reliable and affordable — exactly what we hope for when we signed on with NOPEC.
The details for the recent fall-out are just starting to trickle out but it appears that contract issues were percolating below the surface between NOPEC and First Energy, and now we’re hearing serious phrases like “unilateral demands” and “contract termination.”
Power is big business so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that hard decisions have to be made to protect the bottom line but I was surprised by the speed in the break down of this power partnership.
We’ve had nothing but good things to say about our friends at First Energy and NOPEC so I’m not sure where things went “wrong” but at this point I suspect there’s plenty of lawyers involved and they’ll have their day in court to plead their respective cases.
In the meantime, what does that mean for all of us customers?
Apparently very little — as both parties say customers will have no disruption in power service — and that seems to be one thing they can agree on.
They disagree a bit on how power supply continuity will be ensured — with First Energy suggesting customers may want to shop around (read the First Energy FAQ) for a new supplier, while NOPEC says they’ve got their members’ back, they’ll land a new supplier for us.
Power supply will seemingly go on as NOPEC secures a new contract that will go into effect January 1, 2017 — and according to their customer notices, the consumers need not worry nor do they need to shop around on their own.
I suppose the big question will be “at what price” will the new contract kick-in at the turn of the new year but as demonstrated by this recent break-up, NOPEC is willing to play hard ball for it’s members, so we’ll look for NOPEC to do the same as they negotiate a new deal on our behalf.
In the meantime here’s NOPEC’s “Questions and Answers” for it’s members:
NOPEC Electric Update
The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) has begun discussions with new suppliers to provide electricity for 500,000 customers in 12 Northern Ohio counties following FirstEnergy Solutions’ decision on October 28th to terminate its contract with NOPEC three years early.
There will be no disruption of service to any NOPEC Customer. NOPEC expects to have a new supplier in place in the immediate future. For more information, you can read the full press release here.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions:
1. What does this mean for me, the customer? Am I going to have electricity?
Yes. Your electricity will continue to flow. Throughout the process of finding a new supplier, there will be no disruption of service for NOPEC customers.
2. So, my electricity will definitely not be shut off?
No, your electricity will not be shut off. There will be no disruption of service for our NOPEC customers because of the changing of suppliers.
3. What should I, the customer, be doing?
You should do nothing. Your discounts through NOPEC’s current supplier will continue until January. NOPEC plans to have a sound and financially strong supplier under contract shortly, ready to deliver electricity to NOPEC customers at a favorable rate.
4. What happened? How can FirstEnergy Solutions so suddenly end this contract?
FirstEnergy Solutions informed NOPEC on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, that it was terminating its contract with NOPEC three years early, effective January 2017. The unexpected termination announcement came after FirstEnergy Solutions made a surprising demand for unilateral contract concessions from NOPEC and amid numerous news reports about the severe financial challenges FirstEnergy Solutions and its parent corporation, FirstEnergy Corp., are facing.
5. What is NOPEC doing in response to this early termination?
NOPEC is currently in discussions with new suppliers to continue to provide electricity at a discounted rate for its customers. NOPEC over the past 15 years has saved customers about $250 million and added many other values that benefit our communities and customers.
6. What did the contract with FirstEnergy Solutions provide for me, and how will it change?
On Jan. 1, 2010, FirstEnergy Solutions entered into a nine-year contract with NOPEC to supply electricity to NOPEC customers. As a result of that deal, NOPEC residential customers saved 6 percent and commercial customers saved 4 percent on the generation portion of their electric bills, compared with what they would have been paying to a utility. In addition, NOPEC has funded an additional 1 percent discount that shows up on your electric bill as “NOPEC Customer Credit.”
NOPEC is focused on getting our customers an excellent, financially strong electricity supplier and a deal that will allow them to continue to experience the many benefits NOPEC has become known for delivering to our customers.
7. Why did FirstEnergy Solutions terminate so quickly?
The FES decision to terminate the contract three years early came after NOPEC rejected a number of unilateral demands for contract concessions. There also have been published reports and press interviews with FirstEnergy Corp. executives citing severe financial challenges being faced by FES. Indeed, First Energy CEO Chuck Jones recently told Crain’s Cleveland Business “there’s blood in the water” because of FirstEnergy’s weakened financial state.
It is unfortunate that FES is facing such financial problems, but any offer FES makes to potential new customers (including you) should be evaluated in that light.
NOPEC’s primary goal is to immediately find an electricity supplier for our customers that is financially stable with a proven history of excellent service.
8. I’ve read stories about a court case with NOPEC and FirstEnergy. What’s that about?
We are in court with FES over some of the details of the termination of the contract and because we want to be sure that NOPEC’s customers and their electricity supply is protected should FES be sold or go bankrupt. This does not affect NOPEC’s ability to shop for a new supplier at a discounted rate to begin providing service when FirstEnergy Solutions ends service.
9. When NOPEC finds a new supplier to provide a discounted rate, what do I need to do to receive that rate?
You should do nothing. When NOPEC contracts with a new electricity supplier, NOPEC will send a new notice to you with an option for you to “opt-out.” If you are happy with the new rate, you do not need to do anything and your discount will automatically be applied to your bill. If you do not want to reap the benefits of NOPEC’s new rate, you can fill out the “opt-out” form and return it to NOPEC within 21 days of the mailing date. If you opt-out, you will return to the utility’s standard service offer.
For 15 years, the great majority of customers in NOPEC communities have signed up for NOPEC’s significant savings. NOPEC was started by communities like yours that recognized deregulation was an opportunity for a not-for-profit energy “aggregator” that could help communities negotiate better deals on electricity and natural gas.
It has worked for the roughly 500,000 NOPEC customers in 12 Northern Ohio counties who have saved money on their utility costs and gotten other benefits from NOPEC.
Nothing that has happened will change that.
You also may call 855-639-8159 for more information.