Equity and Local Generation Should Be Prioritized in Aggregation Process

The City of Columbus is moving forward with a community aggregation effort designed to promote a significant shift to renewable energy in the greater Columbus Area. Should this effort be put on the ballot in November, and passed by Columbus residents, it could change the source of electricity generation for tens of thousands of Columbus residents and businesses. At Community Renewable Energy, we feel that the aggregation process must be grounded in equity and local generation. My colleague Laura Recchie, also the founder of Root + Branch, provided strong testimony emphasizing why this push to equity is so important. I added testimony both on equity and the importance of capturing the economic benefits of developing our renewable energy locally.

 

Dear Columbus City Council,

 

Thanks to Columbus City Council for allowing us the opportunity to discuss the issue of utility aggregation throughout Columbus. Community Choice Aggregation represents a unique opportunity for the City to reduce our carbon footprint. I’d like to prioritize two main points: we have an opportunity to reduce energy burdens in our communities and harness the economic benefits of locally produced energy.

 

On June 14, The Columbus Dispatch reported that Columbus Public Power and Utilities had 57,000 delinquent accounts, with unpaid bills totaling around $6 million. While a portion of that is likely due to a moratorium on shut-offs during Covid-19, residents remain on the hook for the balance of these payments once the moratorium expires. Furthermore, the City’s Department of Public Utilities reports that there are approximately $2.5 million worth of bills that are 90 days overdue, a statistic that predates the pandemic. Columbus Public Power and Utilities represents a fraction of utility accounts across the city, so in reality delinquencies are much higher. In short, people are struggling to pay their utility bills here. We have an existing energy equity issue that will be exacerbated in the short-term by Covid-19 and in the long-term by climate change.

 

Furthermore, aggregation in Columbus should emphasize local generation. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance commissioned a report examining the economic impact of a community solar project in Cleveland. The authors estimated that a 10 MW and a 50 MW ground-mounted community solar project could provide an economic benefit of $21 million and $95 million respectively, employing installation managers, PV installers, maintenance and repair workers, and electricians. In short, the production of renewable energy can have significant local economic benefits. If we’re going to buy renewable energy, we shouldn’t just purchase renewable energy credits. We should harness all of the economic benefits that comes from locally produced energy.

 

Developing a community choice aggregation plan that allows us to go 100% renewable and reduces our carbon footprint is a must. But we should also take advantage of the opportunity aggregation presents to mitigate energy burdens in our community and take advantage of the economic benefits that the local production of energy provides.

 

Thank you,

-Conor Willis

 

Community Renewable Energy

An Enterprise of Praxia Partners

About Conor Willis

Conor Willis is a Project Manager at Community Renewable Energy.