Energy Aggregation Must be Rooted in Equity

Columbus, Ohio is considering Community Choice Aggregation. As experts in energy and equity, our team has strongly advocated for Columbus to use CCA and their climate action plans as a tool for economic development and neighborhood empowerment. If you haven’t already, check out Community Renewable Energy program manager, Conor Willis’ testimony at a recent City Council hearing on the aggregation effort.

In addition to my role at Praxia Partners, I am also the founder of Root + Branch, an organization specializing in community engagement and equitable development. We are incubated by Praxia Partners and a frequent partner of PP enterprises because of our specialty aligned missions. Given my expertise in energy equity, I joined the CRE team to submit testimony at the recent public hearing regarding the City of Columbus’ plan to establish community choice aggregation.

My delivered testimony is below.

 

My name is Laura Recchie, I am the founder of Root + Branch, an organization working at the intersection of community development and renewable energy. Much of my experience  has been specifically around how the private and public sector can leverage renewable energy for benefits that extend beyond the grid.  Because of my experience in other cities and municipalities on energy equity, I especially appreciate this opportunity to share some thoughts on community choice aggregation for my hometown.

I first want to congratulate the City on this first step towards leveraging the public procurement power for the public good.  I believe community choice aggregation will help the city achieve its ambitious environmental goals of 100% renewable energy.

But our city has economic and social goals as well, and divorcing those from this environmental effort would be a waste of an opportunity,  and like many of my neighbors I want to use my time to specifically encourage a stronger commitment to equity through this process – not later in program design but now even before supplier selection occurs.

I’m encouraged to hear some of the presenters reference equity, or comment on the community benefits possible from aggregation,  and I think Councilmembers Doran and Remy have asked some valuable questions that I hope they continue pursuing. 

Community choice aggregation is an excellent public policy tool, for all the reasons mentioned already. However, the equitable economic impact of this public policy is completely dependent on the design of the program, including the RFP design and the procurement priorities.

As policymakers you have the opportunity to use aggregation to create local jobs, support small and minority owned businesses, and integrate job training, education and community ownership through your development of community choice aggregation.  This might be done by requiring community benefit agreements of a supplier, or by choosing multiple small generators. It can be reached by prioritizing small businesses or installers in a supplier RFP, or incentivizing innovation in selection criteria. There are many ways we can achieve energy equity, but all of them are baked into the design of this effort, its legislation and the program and cannot come after the fact.

Community aggregation that simply increases profits for a private utility or the Columbus powerful, without any regard to the cost of power to ratepayers, the economic benefits to communities, or other social benefits for our neighborhoods is a lost opportunity for the city worth millions of dollars. 

I support community choice aggregation for the environmental benefits for Columbus,  but I believe we need an even stronger commitment to equity at every step of this process.

You can tell just by the many testimonies submitted and attendees today, that Columbus is overflowing with ideas and support for creating equitable energy plans that maximize the environmental, economic and social benefits for our communities. 

What I’ve heard tonight is a request for a community choice aggregation plan of which we can all be proud, and from which we all can benefit. I look forward to working with and supporting our city leadership to achieve that. 

Thank you for your consideration and your time.

Laura Recchie, President of Root + Branch

 

About Laura Recchie

Laura Recchie is the Director of Strategy and Project Development for Praxia Partners. She is also the founder of Root + Branch, Inc.