Grove City voters to have say on pursuing electric-aggregation program

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Grove City voters will decide Nov. 3 whether they want the city to opt in for seeking proposals from suppliers to create an electric-aggregation program.

City Council Aug. 3 voted to place an initiative on the ballot for voters to authorize the city to negotiate with suppliers to create an opt-out aggregation program.

If voters approve the initiative they will authorize the city to negotiate electricity rates that would apply to most residents and small businesses, said Ted Berry, the Grove City councilman who sponsored the legislation to place the issue on the ballot.

“People would be included in any program we adopt automatically, but they would have the ability to opt out at any time at no penalty to them,” Berry said.

All energy provided through the aggregation program would be generated at a renewable facility -- solar or wind -- that would be built in Ohio, he said.

“We need to be able to offer our residents competitive pricing for electricity, and that’s what an aggregation program would do,” Berry said. “It’s a chance for residents to get a cheaper, cleaner course of electricity.”

Once the initial costs to build a renewable energy facility would be recouped, sustainable power would be cheaper than coal, nuclear and other non-renewable energy sources, he said.

With council’s vote, Grove City will be the third community in central Ohio to seek voter approval of a community-choice aggregation program for renewable energy, said Cathy Cowan Becker, a member of the city’s sustainability committee.

Columbus will have a similar initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot.

In 2018, a ballot measure was passed with 75% of the vote in favor in Worthington.

“Worthington’s program has been in place for about a year and they’ve already seen about $100,000 in savings,” Becker said.

A key factor is an aggregation program’s “economy of scale,” she said.

“You’re able to leverage the bulk purchases of power to help reduce the cost for each participant,” Becker said. “It’s like a Sam’s Club for energy.”

If voters approve the initiative, the next step would be for Grove City to make a request for proposals from energy suppliers, Berry said.

“There are a number of suppliers, including American Electric Power, who are set up to offer aggregate programs,” he said.

The supplier that Grove City would choose for its program would build a facility designed to meet the city’s power needs based on the total number of kilowatt hours used on average over 15 years, he said.

An AEP Energy fact sheet estimates an renewable-energy aggregation program in Grove City would cover 104,227,083 kilowatt hours of electricity totaling 73,693 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, Berry said. That is the equivalent of removing 15,921 passenger vehicles off the road each year.

“Often these renewable-energy facilities generate more energy than is needed,” he said. “The excess power can be put on the grid and sold so the city could generate some additional money that could be used for other sustainable purposes, for example, purchasing park land.”

More than 90% of the power generated for Grove City comes from gas, coal and nuclear sources produced mostly outside of the state, Berry said.

“An aggregation program would result in a facility being built in Ohio, which would mean jobs for Ohio,” he said.

It would also help make Grove City and Ohio more sustainable and energy self-sufficient, Berry said.

Council voted 4-1 to place the aggregation question on the Nov. 3 ballot. Berry and council members Randy Holt, Aaron Schlabach and Roby Schottke voted in favor with council president Christine Houk casting the only vote against it.

Her vote against the resolution “is all about the timetable,” she said.

The council meeting was held 92 days from election day, and Houk said city council might be proceeding too quickly with placing the measure on the ballot.

Getting an aggregation program started would involve providers, brokers and likely “a core team in the community that is going to be driving this,” she said. “I’m not saying those things can’t exist. I’m saying they, today, they really don’t exist.”

Columbus has “done a lot of things out of the traditional order,” Houk said.

That included seeking requests for proposals ahead of placing an initiative on the ballo, she said.

“They (Columbus officials) have basically given themselves a running start and when they go in front of the voters, they will be ready for the implementation process,” Houk said. “I can’t help but feel it’s in that leg work that we are going to learn about all the things we should be weighing in order to make the best possible decision for our residents and come up with the best possible outcome.”

Houk said she is “100% behind” pursuing an electric-aggregation program.

“I’m really just not behind this ‘on-fire’ timetable,” she said.

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