Electricity aggregation: Sustainable Delaware Ohio pushes for November ballot issue

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

For the fourth time since October, Delaware City Council on March 8 heard a presentation that linked electric-power aggregation to renewable energy.

Anna Willow of the nonprofit Sustainable Delaware Ohio said the group favors community-choice aggregation to achieve 100% renewable energy locally. She outlined a program to achieve it, including a ballot issue in November.

Delaware City Hall

Council heard the concept discussed in an Oct. 25 presentation by Aspen Energy Corp., a Dublin consulting firm.

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 aggregation plan, consumers could opt into more traditional power and natural-gas options or shop on their own for energy providers, said Alan Samuels and Jay Sell of Aspen.

Chris Bailey of AEP told council AEP is partnering with Aspen as part of AEP's Integrated Renewable Energy program.

The concept also was mentioned during March 1 presentations by Scioto Energy of Columbus and the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council in Solon.

Greg Bechert of Scioto Energy told council traditional aggregation can't be relied on to reduce consumer costs.

Chuck Keiper of NOPEC said it uses a different aggregation model by serving 240 Ohio communities in 19 counties. That volume gives NOPEC the ability to negotiate for reduced costs, he said.

Both men said aggregation could be used to facilitate renewable energy, as Aspen representatives had described earlier.

"Members of Sustainable Delaware have been working on this for a long time," said Willow, who said she is an environmental anthropologist at Ohio State University.

"We know that you as a city have been, as well. And we feel very, very strongly that now is the time to move forward with our clean-energy future. We feel very strongly that this is the future, and it’s really important,” she said.

Sustainable Delaware, she said, recommends that City Council finalize aggregation ballot language in May and vote on the ballot language in June. The filing deadline for the Nov. 2 election is Aug. 4, she said.

Sustainable Delaware would partner with Power for a Clean Future Ohio and the Ohio Environmental Council, using public education resources to support the ballot issue campaign, she said.

Willow said the city in 2022 could select an aggregation broker, and Sustainable Delaware suggests an aggregator working with governments, such as NOPEC or Sustainable Ohio Public Energy Council of Athens.

Like NOPEC, SOPEC can negotiate lower electricity prices, she said.

The program, she said, would support energy jobs in Ohio and allow participants to opt out without a fee, letting them select their own electric-power provider.

The plan also would address climate change and reduce emissions that affect public health, she said.

Willow said Columbus and Grove City voters approved aggregation ballot issues in 2020, and Worthington voters approved a similar issue in 2018.

City Manager Tom Homan told council March 1 the prospect of a fall aggregation ballot issue is looking less realistic.

If the city were to opt for such a ballot issue, he said, it would be obliged to inform the public on all the intricacies of the plan.

That kind of time might not be available, he said, especially because the city faces other priorities related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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