Debate over RECs could lead to Oberlin efficiency projects

By Valerie Urbanik -

How $311,000 generated from the city’s Renewable Energy Credits should be spent by Oberlin city council is a topic of debate.

City lawmakers heard last Monday from Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System director Steve Dupee and public utilities committee member Carl McDaniel about how the PUC believes the cash should be sent.

The PUC recommended that most REC revenues, perhaps 85 percent, should be deposited in the city’s Sustainable Reserve Program Fund to provide money for local energy efficiency projects and greenhouse gas reductions. Tthe remaining cash should be spent for the betterment of the community.

McDaniel said the cash needs to be spent on more energy efficiency projects: “We’d be happy with 100 percent,” he said.

Residents will benefit most by investing the REC revenues as recommended by the PUC, McDaniel said.

Dupee said if the PUC recommendation is approved the reserve program will have to be restructured to allow the REC revenues to be used for various projects.

“One of the limitations of the program is that it has to have a purpose reasonably related to the municipal electric system and we’ve envisioned it to have a communitywide benefit,” he said. “It’s been difficult to grant dollars to individual entities or individual customers for individual improvements.”

Providing Oberlin With Efficiency Responsibly has been the city’s biggest group to benefit and use cash in the reserve program.

McDaniel said ratepayers are expected to see an increase starting next year.

The rise in power cost is due to the city transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable resources, Dupee said.

He expects residential customers to pay nearly $200 more in 2017 then what they paid in 2013 and larger customers will pay about $146,000 more.

“We’ve seen a little bit of an increase but the big increase is coming,” Dupee said. “We can offset this transition by returning these dollars (to customers).”

Dupee said his recommendation was for about 85 percent of the REC revenues be returned to residents and 15 percent of the cash to go toward the reserve program.

“It’s going to take time to return these dollars to customers,” he said. “It wouldn’t be a direct credit on their bill.”

The cash would appear as a reduction on ratepayers electric bills on a monthly basis by improving energy efficiency in each city building and street lights around town.

“I’m convinced we are morally and legally in the wrong to keep this money,” said PUC chair John Scofield, who voted against the members’ recommendation along with Tony Mealy. “We need to return these funds to the people.”

Council members are expected to discuss how to spend the REC revenues further but a date has not been set.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.

By Valerie Urbanik