Where will REC cash go? The choice is yours

By Scott Mahoney - smahoney@civitasmedia.com

The great rebate debate may finally be coming to a close.

In an attempt to finally solve the disagreement over Renewable Energy Credits, Oberlin city council is considering an ordinance that would allow electric ratepayers to either donate their share to the city, or not — but at this point nobody is really sure what the funds will be used for.

The ordinance is in response to a directive from council to city administrators to provide utility customers with an option to contribute all or a portion of any rebates received from the sales of RECs.

The credits are pollution offsets. The Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System has sold them on the open market. THe buyers — other energy companies — can use them to be in compliance with stricter state clean energy standards without actually producing more clean energy.

By the end of 2016, OMLPS had generated $2.6 million in revenue from the sale of RECs.

The issue has been a highly contentious one in Oberlin over the past year, with some in favor of giving the $2.6 million back to ratepayers in the form of rebates, while others want to use the REC funds to further the city’s use of renewable energy sources.

Council eventually agreed to split the revenue 85-15, with the 85 percent going back to electric customers and the other 15 percent going into the city’s Sustainable Reserve fund.

The creation of a Community Choice Program would allow those ratepayers who so choose to donate any rebates received from REC sales.

“It’s been a long time coming, and we’d like to get the program started as soon as possible,” Oberlin finance director Sal Talarico said. “The sooner we can create the mechanism to accept the dollars… that’s what you’re doing tonight; you’re accepting a mechanism so we can accept the dollars. All it does is create a fund, or a bucket, for us to store dollars that are contributed by our ratepayers.”

The Impact Group, a PR firm the city hired to help with communications, will hold focus group meetings with residents and OMLPS ratepayers to decide what the Community Choice Fund will be used for.

Rather than passing the ordinance right away, council decided to delay the vote until Feb. 21.

Scott Mahoney can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @sm_mahoney on Twitter.

By Scott Mahoney