Delaware council hears pitch on renewable-electricity aggregation

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

Delaware city voters could see a ballot issue in 2021 seeking approval of a citywide aggregation plan that could lead to adoption of renewable electric power.

That's one possible outcome of a proposal described to City Council members Oct. 25 by representatives of Aspen Energy Corp., a Dublin consulting firm.

Delaware City Hall

Alan Samuels and Jay Sell of Aspen described a plan to use electricity provided by solar panels and wind turbines in Ohio to create what Samuels called a “100% local Ohio renewable-electricity-generation program for residents and small-business owners.”

Aspen proposes that Ohio municipalities adopt electricity- and gas-aggregation programs that would allow homeowners and small businesses to opt into renewable "green" energy, replacing "brown" electricity produced by coal-burning plants. 

Also under an aggregate plan, consumers could opt into more traditional power and natural-gas options or shop on their own for energy providers, he said. 

What has been available thus far in Ohio, Samuels said, are "renewable-energy credits (that have) been around awhile (stemming) from renewable assets in other states," such as Texas and Oklahoma.

That's "not a bad program but certainly not the same impact as ... renewable-energy assets actually being here in the state of Ohio," he said. 

Samuels said Aspen partners with AEP as part of AEP’s Integrated Renewable Energy program.

In the Nov. 3 election, he said, such aggregation issues were on the ballot in Columbus and Grove City, and both were approved. 

Such action is a first step to making renewable options even possible for consideration, he said.

A network of Ohio-based solar panels and wind turbines does not yet exist, Sell said.

"Most of the assets are going to come online in 2023, but some of them are going to be feathered in in 2022,” Chris Bailey of AEP told council. “It does take some time, about a year and a half to two years, to get these things built to what Jay and Alan said."

Sell said municipalities adopting aggregation would use a "bridge program" consisting of renewable-energy certificates until the renewable assets are available in Ohio. Aspen would assist communities during that phase, he said.

Bailey said AEP backs Aspen's aggregation efforts.

“We work with them a lot. They are very professional, knowledgeable about aggregation and what it takes to implement a successful program from start to finish if you decide to move to the next step,” Bailey said.

Bailey said cities are responsible for 70% of all harmful carbon emissions produced in the United States, linked to illnesses, pollution and climate change.

“Opt-out aggregation is a great way for cities to significantly reduce its carbon footprint relatively quickly,” Bailey said.

“We are proposing to council that both electricity- and natural-gas-aggregation measures be placed on a future ballot, which is the first step in creating community cohesion to make these renewable options even possible for consideration,” Samuels said.

The average difference in price per kWh between brown and green energy sources is probably 0.1 cent, he said. 

City Manager Tom Homan said he would issue a report to council after research that would include contacting other cities.

An aggregation ballot issue next spring or in the fall are possibilities, he said. 

The only organized opposition to the plan came from the Ohio coal industry, which potentially could lose sales as green power replaces coal-fired generation.

Michael D. Cope, president of the Ohio Coal Association, said he was doubtful that AEP Energy can really provide all the new power sources needed by the city of Columbus by the start of 2023, calling it "at best a fairy tale and at worst a fraud.

"The city is asking its voters to approve an 'opt-out' plan that will provide 100% local renewable energy for its consumers," Cope said in a written statement Oct. 5. "That is simply NOT POSSIBLE."

"Building so much capacity in one of the cloudiest and calmest regions of Ohio is ridiculous," Cope said.

Some information for this story was provided by Columbus Dispatch reporter Bill Bush.

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