WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) — The City of Warren held a forum Thursday evening to discuss with community members and local energy companies the rising energy costs and what people can do to save money on their utilities.

Many residents are already seeing a spike in their gas and electric bills.

As the war in Ukraine wages on, countries across the globe continue to boycott Russian gas and oil, putting a greater strain on other producers, which raises prices for everyone.

“When Ohio decided to deregulate electricity and natural gas, it was assumed everyone would have shop,” said Chuck Keiper, CEO of NOPEC.

Ohioans have a right to shop around for cheaper energy, but it can be confusing and time-consuming.

“There’s a provision in the law that allows — whether they were counties, townships, villages or cities — to put an issue on the ballot to ask their citizens if they want to buy all of those commodities together,” Keiper said.

This is called aggregation. Cities like Warren, which have opted into being aggregate communities, take their bulk buying power and shop around for the best price.

Citizens are considered in the aggregation unless they choose to opt out.

Previously, Warren was serviced by nonprofit NOPEC for energy needs.

But NOPEC is a nonprofit group and has voluntarily placed residents back with Ohio Edison because their rates are cheaper on the Standard Service Offer, which is offered to regular customers.

That SSO contract is set to expire over the summer, when rates are expected to double.

The city is still considering how best to move forward until that time.

Right now, city leadership is advising Warren residents to stay with Ohio Edison until the rate change in the summer, which is expected to occur around June. The rates people have now with Ohio Edison were locked in before the spike in prices.

Dominion Energy offers special assistance to those having trouble paying their bills. For those looking to explore their options, visit EnergyChoice.Ohio.Gov.