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Re-localizing power

GCBL staff  |  07/09/08 @ 3:19pm

One of the authors of Ohio's 1999 energy deregulation bill warns we cannot afford to wait for state lawmakers to hash out the rules of the recently passed Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard. We can't afford to wait for Congress to pass legislation limiting carbon emissions, either.

What Paul Fenn, founder and CEO of Local Power, Inc., insists we need is an entirely new paradigm to finance and build renewable energy production. Fenn touts Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) agreements which he credits for making states such as California into renewable energy leaders.

Ohio's 1999 law did open the way for the state's only CCA-The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC). By banding together 400,000 customers from 126 municipalities, NOPEC has leverage to keep utility rates from rising too fast, and it converted a portion of its power to natural gas from dirtier coal.

NOPEC could also broker an agreement with its municipalities to issue bonds to build wind farms or co-generation power plants that supply waste heat to produce biofuels. Those type of projects and more are happening in California where CCAs are, for example, helping Sonoma County set a target of supplying 66% of its power from renewables.

"CCAs provide a bridge because you need investment in supporting infrastructure," said Fenn at an event this afternoon sponsored by EarthWatch Ohio and Green Energy Ohio. "NOPEC is a big player, and (executive director) Leigh Herington seems interested in greening the power supply."

"We could take Northeast Ohio from a few hundred solar arrays to ten thousand," Fenn adds. "You're not waiting for the market or for regulators. Just issue bonds and if it doesn't get built, someone gets sued."

CCAs in Sonoma are issuing $1.2 billion in H-bonds for 360-megawatts of renewable energy projects including an urban wind project and conservation measures such as controls that send signals to appliances about how much power to draw to avoid more expensive peak demand. It will reduce the county's greenhouse gas emissions by six percent and keep electric rates steady at 8.5 cents per kilowatt/hour.

"This would be impossible for private financing because, unlike coal plants, most of the capital costs for renewable energy is upfront."

Even though it's big and established, NOPEC isn't the only option. Smaller CCAs with 100,000 households and municipally owned utilities such as Cleveland Public Power are well situated because the city controls the wires and the parameters of the project, Fenn says. Fenn was due to visit Athens, Ohio immediately following his Cleveland visit to present its city council with options for the city to set up a CCA.

Resources 

  • See Fenn's Powerpoint presentation and a link to a 20-minute video titled "Going Local: The Movement for Community Choice Energy" here.
  • Athens Messenger covers Paul Fenn's visit here.

 

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