Carbon County Commissioners watched intently Tuesday as real-time bids from energy companies vying for contracts to provide electricity to county buildings flashed onto the wall, projected from a laptop computer.
After the fast-paced bidding for six categories of service, conferring with solicitor Michael Ozalas and listening to advice from two energy consultants, commissioners decided on a two-year contract with the county's current provider, Houston, Texas-based Champion Energy Services.
Commissioner Charles Getz, who preferred the 12-month contract, cast the sole opposing vote.
Under the contract, the county will pay 7.97 cents per kilowatt hour, less than it currently pays. Ten percent of the electricity Champion provides will come from "green," environmentally friendly, sources.
"The commissioners are pleased the low bids on all six contract options came in at prices less than what the county is currently paying for electricity, so no matter what option we selected, we stood to realize a savings. A new two-year contract beginning in January means the county is now certain it will pay less for electricity in 2012 and 2013 than we are paying this year, which is a good thing," said Commissioners' Chairman William O'Gurek.
"As part of our daily role of governing, we believe it is expected of us to try to reduce the taxpayers' costs whenever and wherever possible and I believe today's exercise, while a little time consuming, was well worth the effort because it will save the county $26,000 in the next two years," he said.
The six contract bids, for 12 month, 24 month and 36 month contracts, with corresponding options for 10 percent green energy, were based on 2,762,698 kilowatt hours.
The auction was facilitated by GreenPointe Energy of Berwyn, Chester County, and WorldEnergy of West Conshohocken, Montgomery County.
"GreenPointe Energy uses WorldEnergy's online platform to host the auctions," said GreenPointe Energy president Jason R. Ulshafer.
It was the second time the county has sought bids online for electric rates. In its first round of bidding two years ago, after deregulation allowed PPL to boost its rates nearly 30 percent, the county saved almost $100,000 on its electric bill through online bidding, which Ulshafer described as "real-time competition." The county saved between 11 and 15 cents per kilowatt hour by choosing Champion over PPL.
The current contract with Champion, which ends in December, costs the county 8.45 cents a kilowatt hour. The rate includes generation, transmission and distribution of energy.
This year, the county spent about $276,000 for power for 33 accounts. The most voracious user is the county prison in Nesquehoning, which consumes 1.1 million kilowatt hours, Ulshafer said.
Among the other lowest bidders for the two-year, green contract were Reliant Energy, which bid 7.98 cents per kilowatt hour and Liberty Energy, which bid 8.07 cents. Both companies are also based in Houston.