Legislation adopted during Wednesday's special session of Marietta City Council will allow voters to decide whether the city should pursue certification to bulk-purchase electricity and pass the savings on to city residents.
If approved on the May primary ballot, voters would give council authority to seek certification from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to enter into an inter-governmental aggregation agreement with broker Buckeye Energy of Twinsburg.
Buckeye Energy would then be able to "shop" for deals on bulk electricity purchases and lock in lower prices for city residents and businesses.
"Anytime we can set up competition for utility rates, it will save citizens money on electricity," said Mayor Michael Mullen. "And this would be done the same way as the city's natural gas aggregation program."
In May 2006, voters approved that program, which allowed Buckeye Energy to lock in lower natural gas prices for local residents.
For three years, natural gas customers who lived in Marietta and participated in that program were able to save on their gas bills. In 2010, natural gas prices fell sharply, and most customers did not have to participate in the program to realize savings.
Council tabled the electric aggregation legislation earlier this month when questions arose about when customers could "opt out" of the program without having to pay a penalty fee. Some council members were concerned that residents could not opt out for two years.
The natural gas program allows anyone to opt out at any time without penalty if they feel they could obtain a better price.
On Wednesday, special utilities committee Chairman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, said once voters give permission, council could set the parameters for opting out of the electric aggregation program.
"People tell me they appreciate the natural gas aggregation program," McCauley said. "They don't want to take the time to shop around for a better rate on their own from month to month."
Council passed the ballot issue legislation for electric aggregation on a 6-0 vote Wednesday. Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, was out of town and unable to attend the special session.