Columbus Division of Power electric customers with solar or wind can sell power back – The Columbus Dispatch

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The Columbus Division of Power, the historic, city-owned electric utility that still serves about 17,000 mostly residential customers, will finally allow “net metering,” which allows homes with solar panels or small windmills to sell power back to the grid in order to reduce electric bills.

The program was approved Monday by Columbus City Council, a move which closes the only remaining gap in city residents’ ability to have net metering. American Electric Power and the city’s municipal aggregation program, supplied by AEP, both already allow for it.

“Net metering is a key critical component of being able to give access to residents in the city of Columbus rooftop solar,” Joe Flarida, executive director of Power a Clean Future Ohio, said during the meeting.

The city’s own municipal utility “is the only existing policy gap within the city of Columbus, for customers who are served by the Columbus Division of Power, as the American Electric Power territory does currently have a net metering policy,” Flarida told the council.

The city’s policy lagged AEP’s despite the fact that Columbus has a “Climate Action Plan” that sets a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

“One way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions is to allow electric power customers to generate their own clean energy from renewable sources such as solar photovoltaic panels,” according to a background paper attached to the ordinance. “Increasing both residential and commercial on-site solar energy generation are identified as critical actions in the Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality.”

The ordinance says customers using “advanced energy resources,” including not just wind and solar photovoltaic but fuel cells, waste-to energy generation, low-impact hydropower, biomass, landfill gas, and solar thermal, qualify for net metering. If a customer’s net energy is negative during a billing month, only the energy charge of the customer’s rate is offset. All other line charges and fees shall be applicable. Also, net negative usage is allowed to accumulate as a credit to offset energy charges for future billing months, the ordinance says.

“What you have before you is a best practice,” thoroughly researched across Ohio, Flarida said.

.”This is just the first step toward making the Columbus Division of Power a model for how to equitably reduce emissions while saving folks money,” said Nolan Rutschilling, the Ohio Environmental Council’s managing director of energy policy. It will show Columbus and the state that it “can and should serve people first, not profits.”

The move allows homeowners and businesses to be properly compensated for installing green generation, and allows them to access a variety of government programs that subsidize such installations, Rutschilling said.

Alana Shockey, assistant director of sustainability with the city Public Utilities Department, added that the ordinance passed Monday also allows the city to do “community solar,” which are shared renewable energy systems that people who don’t own their homes or don’t live in a building suitable for green development can own a percentage of, allowing them to also offset their bills through net metering.

“That will also be an open and transparent process as we move forward with program design and implementation,” Shockey said.

Rutschilling said the city’s action plan calls for community solar to be up and running by next year.

“We see this as the first step toward folks getting access to solar,” Rutschilling said. “The next step being community solar … We strongly encourage that to be an open, transparent process,” with churches, businesses and residents participating.

In January, the city Division of Power, under Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, announced that customers in the city’s green-energy municipal electric aggregation program will see rising bills as the city and AEP Energy renegotiate down how much green power is locally generated, and how much later it will come online.

AEP Energy, an affiliate of AEP, said the landscape for new solar projects had “shifted dramatically,” meaning projections that all the more than 180,000 customers could be served by green energy by last year had to be pushed back.

Although the promised $1 billion in new Ohio-based clean energy projects — such as massive new wind and solar farms — are now up to five years or more behind the originally projected schedule, and prices have doubled, the city was hoping to have them up and running “as soon as possible,” Shockey said in January.

In other action at Monday’s meeting, City Council approved the Department of Public Service entering into grant agreements with the Short North Alliance, Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, and Columbus Fashion Alliance in the amount of $100,000 each for 2024 “open streets” events. The Short North Alliance has planned two gallery hops and the Holiday Hop. Capital Crossroads and the Fashion Alliance are also planning open street events for 614 Day.

Earlier Monday, the mayor’s office announced the allocation of $20.8 million in funding for youth programs this summer, including $8.6 million to 90 community organizations that submitted competitive funding requests. “Programs receiving financial support promote academic achievement, career readiness skills and non-violent conflict resolution, all of which empower youth to learn, grow and develop during the summer months and beyond.”

City Council still must approve the $8.6 to the community groups at its April 29 meeting.

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