Shopping for natural gas in Ohio is easier than ever!
Ohio’s Natural Gas Customer Choice programs exist in the service areas of Ohio’s four largest gas utilities. You can purchase natural gas service for your home at the state-regulated rate from a Local Distribution Company (LDC), or you can sign up for service from a Competitive Retail Natural Gas Supplier (CRNGS) like Direct Energy.
Both supply gas using the standard transmission price set by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Either way, the local gas utility will continue delivering natural gas through its local distribution pipeline to your home, no matter where they buy it from.
Instead of the utility dictating the kind of Ohio natural gas service your family receives, you now can choose the natural gas supplier you want and the kind of service plan you want. You can also shop around for the best deal.
How It Works
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) regulates natural gas utilities in the state. PUCO oversees the state’s approved four natural gas LDC’s and regulates these utilities’ standard service offer (SSO) plans. PUCO also regulates the natural gas distribution rates, monitors the market-based rates charged for natural gas supplies, and ensures that companies provide quality, safe and reliable natural gas service, including installation, metering, billing and customer service.
PUCO also operates the Energy Choice Ohio website where you can shop and compare different energy plans with the regulated LDC rates.
Ohio’s Natural Gas Customer Choice programs are run by four natural gas LDC’s:
These LDC’s own and are responsible for maintaining the reliability and safety of the natural gas storage and distribution pipelines in their service area. You are free to choose the utility serving your area as your gas supplier, or you can choose a CRNGS.
However, if you smell gas in your home or have other safety-concerns about your gas service, you still need to contact your local utility. Visit the PUCO Apples to Apples website to find your local natural gas utility.
Ohio’s four LDC’s set their natural gas prices with guidance from PUCO, and all four have slightly different rates.
- Columbia Gas of Ohio, Dominion East Ohio, and Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio conduct periodic auctions for natural gas supplies for customers who do not participate in the retail choice program. Rates are determined using the NYMEX month-end natural gas settlement price plus a retail price adjustment set during the auctions.
- Duke Energy sets its natural gas prices on a monthly basis to better reflect the current cost of gas.
Consequently, LDC rates vary from month to month with prices peaking in winter —and increasingly during the summer, too.
Each Competitive Retail Natural Gas Supplier (CRNGS) pays for gas, storage, and transportation many months before it is even needed for consumer use. However, because retail supplier prices are not controlled by PUCO, their rates don’t depend on annual wholesale auctions.
Competitive retail suppliers shop for the best natural gas at market prices all the time.
- By shopping competitively, retail suppliers can choose options to fix the natural gas and transmission delivery price for a specific length of time – 12 months, for example.
- They can also purchase gas based on the fluctuating market and transmission delivery prices.
- Or, they can use one buying strategy to hedge against costs from the other.
All these options help keep their prices low.
Let’s Go Shopping!
When you first go to the PUCO’s Apples to Apples website, you’ll be asked to choose which of the four LDC’s is your residential service provider. Once you’ve identified that LDC, you’ll be taken to the comparison charts page. In addition to your LDC, it lists ALL the competitive retail suppliers licensed to serve your area. The chart shows the following information that will help you to compare offers and get the best deal:
- Supplier: This lists the name of the supplier, address, phone number, website URL link, Terms of Service link, and signup link.
- $/mcf: In Ohio, natural gas is sold in thousands of cubic feet ($/mcf).
- Rate type: Rates are either be fixed or variable. Fixed rates feature prices that won’t change during the length of the contract. You may pay more when prices fall, but you’ll be protected when prices spike. Variable rates will change monthly. You might save money when prices fall, but you will pay more when prices spike.
- Intro. Price: This states whether the rate is an introductory rate and what those conditions mean. Introductory rates are usually very low for the first billing cycle only. Afterwards, customers are put into a standard variable rate.
- Term Length: Rate plans can have term lengths varying from month-to-month to 36 month (3 years).
- Early Termination Fee (ETF): This is the amount you will need to pay to end your service agreement early. before your contract term expires. Generally, month-to-month rate plans don’t have this fee, while most fixed rate plans do. Always weigh the cost of the ETF carefully when shopping for new plans.
- Monthly Fee: Some companies charge monthly services fees.
- Promo. Offers: Some companies make promotional offers. These include things like movie tickets, airline discounts, gift certificates, smart thermostats, and more. Keep these in mind when you’re shopping because these can really sweeten a deal.
Terms of Service
As you compare offers, be sure to also compare the Terms of Service. This will explain any additional fees, deposits, or other miscellaneous charges, such as paying by phone or online. Read and understand all the terms. Contact the supplier if you have any questions.
In Ohio, local communities are allowed to buy natural gas as a citizen group. Most governmental aggregation programs automatically enroll all local residents, unless they opt out of the program every two years.
After Your Choice is Made
Once you sign up with a supplier, your LDC will send you a letter to confirm the change. If the information is correct, you do not have to do anything. If the information is not correct, contact the utility and request that the switch be stopped.
You can still change your mind! Ohio’s Right’s of Rescission grants you seven business days from the postmark date of that letter to cancel a contract without penalty by contacting the utility by phone or in writing.
When your first bill arrives, examine it carefully. PUCO provides an excellent bill guide to make switching to a retailer supplier easy and effortless.