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Southeast Ohio Council of Government Puts Athens and Amesville on the Map by Going Big for Clean Energy

Trish Demeter, December 17, 2014

Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) uses Ohio Community Choice Law to get more than just low electric prices for ratepayers, prioritizes economic development and the environment

Today, a local community in Southeast Ohio made huge strides in growing jobs, addressing climate change and stabilizing residents’ utility bills – all with the stroke of a pen on what would otherwise be pretty mundane electricity supply contracts.

The Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC), a local council of governments whose membership includes Athens County, Athens City,  and the Village of Amesville, struck deals with both AEP Energy and Empower Gas & Electric, LLC (Empower G&E) to provide residents with electricity and to launch local renewable power and energy efficiency initiatives.

“SOPEC’s package is unlike any other that I’ve seen in the country,” said Trish Demeter, Managing Director of Energy and Clean Air Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council. “They have put together a bold, comprehensive and ambitious plan to lower electricity prices, increase the use of renewable energy and stimulate local economic development.”

What makes SOPEC’s deal unique is their aggressive plan to implement energy efficiency measures with the development of local renewable energy projects. Typically, electric supply deals struck through Ohio’s Community Choice law, otherwise known as municipal aggregation, focus on bulk purchasing power of residents in order to bring down the electric rate that customers pays. SOPEC has not only penned a deal that will reduce energy costs by 28% compared to the applicable residential utility rate, but they have also called for a quarter of the power they’re buying to come from clean, renewable energy resources. To further drive down energy costs, SOPEC will be offering residents energy efficiency programs through Empower G&E, which will use local contractors and workers to implement energy efficiency measures for ratepayers.

“This plan is a blueprint for communities across the nation who are interested in smart ways to manage energy and spur economic development and grow jobs that can’t be outsourced,” added Demeter. “And SOPEC has done it at a time when state government in Columbus has regrettably taken a step back energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

A law (Ohio Senate Bill 310) passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Kasich  in June 2014, suspended requirements on utilities to provide renewable power and energy efficiency programs to their customers for a period of at least two years, while a legislative committee continues to study the law. The legislation, although touted as a temporary “freeze” on efficiency and renewable standards, has already had a chilling effect on investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

“SOPEC is making itself a leader in Ohio, and nationally, for renewable energy economic development and energy efficiency. While our state government idles on clean energy, SOPEC is moving forward, doing its part to ensure that future generations won’t have to deal with the worst impacts of global warming,” concluded Demeter.