RECs should be put to good use

To the editor:

Oberlin, we have a problem! A big problem. And a growing one. Money. There is over $1.5 million in the city’s treasury piled up from the sale of Renewable Energy Credits. RECs are an asset received from the generation and the purchase of carbon-neutral energy. Since Oberlin’s electric power portfolio is about 90 percent carbon-neutral, we have created for ourselves a renewable asset, a very very robust asset. It is projected that the sale of RECs will result in about $800,000 annually for the next several years.

My guess is that if we had a choice of problems, this would be the one chosen. But wealth, especially quicky wealth, has its own perils. Policy makers, policy implementers, and citizens all, musn’t go giddy, musn’t be foolish. Careful thought must be given to choosing the most beneficial applications of the REC money.

So if we are careful and thoughtful, what a marvelous opportunity we have before us — in truth, a bundle of opportunities! Oberlin’s earlier choice (2008) of green power instead of a 50-year commitment to coal-generated power, has opened the way to funding several, perhaps even many projects and programs, both public and private, to make Oberlin a better place to live, to work, to visit, to do business, to locate a new business. It will not be difficult to assemble a list of good ideas. It will not be impossible to evaluate those ideas and select the best of them — the ideas that, if put into practice and financially-supported by REC money, could save (as the first good result), Oberlin’s electric power customers money — all rate-payers: residential, commercial, industrial, institutional. Every Oberlinian could benefit. And then?

And then, more good ideas, more good results. One marvelous example: Oberlin puts our REC money together with federal transportation money in partnership with Lorain County Transit to establish an in-town electric bus transit system (emissions reduction!) with out-of-town connections. A day-in, day-out benefit to all of us, the elderly, the disabled, employees, shoppers, school children, visitors, college students, faculty, staff. Let’s do it!

David E. Sonner