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Council committee hears power proposals

Marietta City Council has a month to weigh two electric aggregation proposals following contrasting pitches Thursday.

Council’s Special Utilities Committee heard first from Tom Bellish, president of Buckeye Energy Brokers, whom the city has worked with for more than a decade to offer a combined purchasing power for secured electricity billing and natural gas billing rates within the city.

The city’s current secured rate for electric service for residents is up for contract adjustment this year, with a new term opening in October.

Bellish brokers with electric suppliers using the purchasing leverage of the city’s entire population to secure steady rates.

Marietta voters authorized this brokerage of electricity in 2011 and since have had the option to opt-out for a marginal fee if swayed by a variable or shorter-term rate individually.

But in order to meet public utilities commission requirements for notification and citizen options to opt-out of the bulk rating, council must decide whether to continue working through Buckeye Energy Brokers or select its second option by the end of March.

Option B was offered by Luke Sulfridge with the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council.

SOPEC, Sulfridge explained, is a nonprofit combination of governments akin to the oversight Buckeye Hills Regional Council has as a combined development and grant-administration agency representing multiple municipalities and counties in the southeastern Ohio region.

Bellish offered to secure beginning in October a rate for Marietta electric customers 4.58 cents per kilowatt hour for one year or 4.71 cents per kilowatt hour for three years.

Sulfridge offered to secure for the term of October through June 2021 a rate of 4.639 cents per kilowatt hour or 4.734 cents per kilowatt hour for the same nine month span but guaranteeing 100 percent renewable energy sourcing.

Bellish reminded the legislators that the energy portfolio which supplies electricity to local homes and businesses does not change in sourcing regardless of the solar power array attached to a particular building.

“Remember a credit is simply a piece of paper,” he described.

He explained that energy credits act in effect like rebates for providing part of the energy grid, not specifically removing other fuel types from what powered an individual home.

But during their pitches Thursday, neither Sulfridge nor Bellish addressed the cost the city coffers would be responsible for if contracted with SOPEC or Buckeye Energy Brokers.

Sulfridge did however include in his pitch that the nonprofit’s goal in working with local governments is to return overages not used to fund the council’s operations back to partnering communities through grants.

The legislative body did not indicate which proposal was more appealing as a whole or by individual Thursday and can be expected to discuss the proposals at a future Public Utilities Committee potentially combined with Finance Committee in the next two weeks.

Council next meets Tuesday to review Ohio Department of Transportation conflicts with the bidding prices of Lancaster Street paving slated for this year.

Committees are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. in the second floor conference room of 304 Putnam St.

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