Pushing more money toward clean power projects is the plan for Oberlin’s energy conservation and efficiency fund.
Since its 2007 inception, about $187,000 of the sustainable reserve fund has been spent on seven initiatives, according to a report to city council members from Steve Dupee, electric director of the Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System, which oversees the money.
Efforts included scrapped wind turbine and bio-fuels initiatives. Successful programs included homeowner energy audits, energy efficient appliance rebates to small businesses, and a citywide greenhouse gas inventory to set emission reduction goals.
Dupee told council members at their July 5 meeting that OMLPS needs to better promote the fund to residents through social media and on the city’s website.
“The electric utility is awesome at keeping the lights on and making sure folks get their utility bills (but) we’re terrible at marketing ourselves,” Dupee said. “We definitely need some assistance in that.”
Rather than primarily award grants to community groups, Dupee wants to spend most of the fund on municipal infrastructure improvements. Upgrades would include more LED lighting at municipal facilities to collectively reduce ratepayers’ bills.
More money would also be spent on American Municipal Power’s Efficiency Smart program. The program provides technical expertise and financial incentives, such as rebates for buying energy efficient products, to residential and commercial customers.
Additional money could also go to Providing Oberlin With Efficiency Responsibly. The nonprofit group does home energy audits and has helped more than 100 residents weatherize their homes since being formed in 2008. The group has received $133,625 from the fund and is its biggest recipient.
The proposed changes come with the fund expected to increase to about $650,000 by year’s end.
The money is from the 85-15 percent split of $2.6 million in profits from the trading of pollution offsets known as Renewable Energy Credits to out of state utilities.
Of the $2.2 million in rebates, about $1.3 million — 60 percent — will go to Oberlin Municipal’s top 10 commercial customers.
A divided city council on June 20 voted to rebate the majority of the money to customers who Dupee said had been overcharged to meet Oberlin’s clean energy goals. Opponents of the split wanted all or most of the money to be spent on conservation and efficiency, saying it would give ratepayers greater long-term savings.
The proposed changes will be reviewed by public utility commission members, who will make recommendations. Council is expected to vote on the matter in the next two months.
“Nobody’s in a rush to do anything,” council president Ron Rimbert said. “We’re going to send it back to the PUC and let them chew on it.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.