‘Green money machine’ built on residents’ backs

To the editor:

On Aug. 13, David Sonner wrote a letter to the News-Tribune advocating that the city should use the now over $1 million that Oberlin’s electric utility has accumulated from Renewable Energy Credit sales for funding green projects. He, along with PUC commissioner Carl McDaniel and councilman Bryan Burgess have put together a “road show” in which they are telling Oberlin citizens that whenever they use electricity Oberlin’s “Green Power Money Machine” keeps printing free money for the city. What a crock!

The only green money machine here is the one that is overcharging Oberlin electric customers for green energy. It wasn’t intentional – the electric rates were originally set based on expected costs for purchasing green energy. This rate is a good deal higher than market power. About a year ago the city realized that by taking advantage of a market peculiarity, it could reduce the cost OMLPS paid for green electricity by about one cent per kilowatt hour – and with the blessing of the PUC and city council that is what OMLPS did. This change was retroactive, meaning that OMLPS customers for the last three years have been overcharged more than $1 million for electricity. Moreover, this practice of “overcharging” continues; OMLPS customers are on track to annually shell out $800,000 more than what the electricity really costs.

This money belongs to electric customers and should be returned to them in the form of lower rates, and that is what OMLPS staff, two PUC members, and some city council members believe.

But those who support the Oberlin Project see this as a big slush fund they can tap for their pet green projects. This represents a 10 percent tax on electricity sold by the city – a tax that was instituted without public vote. Nineteen businesses in town account for 65 percent of electric sales. The college has shelled out $250,000 to fund this “green money machine.” Every month some 300 utility customers – including many low-income families – struggle to pay their utility bills and risk having their electricity shut off. This “green money machine” costs them more than one month’s bill each year!

This is a scandal.

John Scofield