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[In the player above, watch related coverage on an expected spike in FirstEnergy electricity rates coming in summer 2023.]

CLEVELAND (WJW) — More than half-a-million electricity consumers in Northeast Ohio are once again getting letters in the mail from NOPEC, asking them if they want to opt out of its energy aggregation, which starts back up this summer.

Last summer, Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council ratepayers were shocked to see their electric bills double or triple unexpectedly, largely due to volatility in the energy market and the timing of auctions through which the aggregator bought its energy.

But unlike last summer, NOPEC’s aggregated rate for electricity this summer and fall is expected to be a better deal than FirstEnergy.

NOPEC is now re-enrolling the about 550,000 electricity customers it dropped last summer after its energy costs spiked and were no longer competitive with FirstEnergy’s standard rate. Its certification to be an electricity aggregator in Ohio was just renewed in March, following a lengthy inquiry by state regulators after it suddenly dropped those ratepayers back into the open market.

The first meter reading will be in June.

Electric customers living in the 240 Ohio communities NOPEC serves once again have the choice to opt out of electricity aggregation and choose their own electricity supplier. Those who don’t act will automatically be re-enrolled, and those who want to go back under the aggregator’s umbrella don’t need to do anything.

Right now, there’s no penalty for opting out, but consumers have to do it by May 2. Consumers can opt out once every three years without penalty.

Not sure if you’re in a NOPEC community? Click here for a map.

Below is a copy of the opt-out letter, which must be returned by mail or faxed if choosing to opt out:

FirstEnergy prices on the rise

NOPEC customers were returned to FirstEnergy’s standard service offering in late August because NOPEC’s rate — though expectedly cheaper because it buys power in bulk — could no longer compete due to uncertainty in the energy market and the timing of competitive auctions for power supply. NOPEC customers at the time saw their bills double or triple.

But this summer, it looks like the opposite is going to happen: Those paying NOPEC for electricity supply will be getting the better deal compared to those sticking with FirstEnergy’s Ohio utilities Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison.

NOPEC’s rate for meter readings in June through December will be 6.45 cents per kilowatt-hour. It’ll end up being about 10.1 cents through FirstEnergy — up from its current rate of about 5.8 cents, which will continue through May.

The average price FirstEnergy paid for each megawatt of electricity is expected to nearly double from $53 to $101 in June due to market fluctuations, a spokesperson for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio told FOX 8 News last month. The average Ohioan consumes about 800 kilowatt-hours per month. So, on average, FirstEnergy customers can expect to pay about $30 more per month.

“Ohio is a deregulated state, and while FirstEnergy’s Ohio utilities are responsible for delivering electricity to your home or business, they do not generate that electricity. That’s the role of an energy supplier,” said a FirstEnergy spokesperson in a statement. “Customers can shop among a wide range of competitive energy suppliers for electric generation, which typically represents about half of a customer’s monthly bill. Our Ohio utilities do not profit from the generation portion of a customer’s bill.”

Will NOPEC continue to be a good deal?

Just like last summer, the price difference comes down to when utilities and aggregators bought their energy at auction and what was happening in the energy markets at the time, said NOPEC spokesperson Dave Jankowski.

“We’re going to have a very competitive price through the summer months and into the fall,” he told FOX 8 News, later adding, “The good news is the markets have fallen back down to normal and we have very competitive pricing as a result of that.”

Last year, NOPEC bought its supply for a shorter period than FirstEnergy did. The thought is would it would make the aggregator more nimble, Jankowski explained last year. But the initial term is much longer now, “to try to get some stability for these customers,” Jankowski said.

But after that initial six-month period, NOPEC ratepayers will return to its standard program price, which could change month-to-month. NOPEC does also offer 12- and 24-month fixed term pricing.

Even though NOPEC’s goal is to secure better rates for its communities, Northeast Ohio consumers should still check out the state’s Apples to Apples tool to see other electric suppliers’ “Price to Compare” — the rate they got through energy auctions — to make sure NOPEC’s rate is lower.