This November, the City of Columbus residents passed Issue 1 — or Community Choice Aggregation. This initiative is intended to deliver 100% renewable energy to many residential and small businesses throughout the City of Columbus, beginning in the summer of 2021.
Community Renewable Energy is playing an active role in advocating for equity throughout the aggregation process. Our team is represented on the City’s advisory committee, and is continuing to advocate for effective public policies at public hearings. Our focus for the governance plan has been on transparency, accountability and intentional design of the programming and contracts, as these fundamentals lay the basis for equitable outcomes.
At CRE, when we plan for long term projects like solar, we are often thinking about 20 years out and more. We are helping lock stable energy prices in for our hosts, but we also have to anticipate future challenges and opportunities that might come up. One way we plan for things we can’t anticipate though, is to build into our long term processes defined mechanisms for review, evaluation and evolution. Regular monitoring and evaluation of our programming and impact is critical to ensuring ongoing equitable outcomes from our work. And we highly encourage the city and it’s consultants to embed similar building blocks into the foundation of the city’s aggregation.
The City held two public hearings last week to review the City’s governance plan — the framework that will govern the policy at the City level. Below is a copy of testimony that CRE Program Manager, Conor Willis, submitted at one of those hearings.
Good evening Councilman Dorans,
Thanks for taking the time to hold this hearing on the governance plan. As I understand it, the governance plan will be the framework for governing up to the next 15 years of electricity delivery in the City of Columbus, and I have two main comments for how this should be governed.
First, both solar technology and the public policy surrounding solar technology are evolving quite rapidly. Therefore it makes sense to build in some sort of program evaluation clause into the governance plan to evaluate changes that we may or may not anticipate down the line.
For example, over the next 15 years, utility scale solar costs may come down so rapidly that perhaps it makes more sense to bring additional users that aren’t currently covered. Or, state law, which deems certain customers ineligible to participate in aggregation, might change, allowing previously ineligible customers to be covered by electricity aggregation. While changes in state law may necessitate changes to the aggregation program, I think the broader point still stands that you may want a clause to allow for specific program evaluation.
Secondly, as a public document, the City ought to be stating its community goals for aggregation at the outset (and have the ability to change the plan as goals develop). A city might state specific goals in a comprehensive plan, or climate action plan, and this is no different. It’s important that specific public goals be used as leverage when the City negotiates its Master Supply Agreement later this year.
I look forward to hearing insights from Trebel, AEP, and the team.