Answering Questions on the Energy Aggregation Initiative
With the adoption of the Columbus community choice aggregation program Clean Energy Columbus this month, there are still some lingering questions readers might have about how it works — including how to compare their energy supply price, what this means for customers of commercial providers versus customers of the City of Columbus Division of Power, and any other questions not entirely answered in the city’s ongoing messaging about the program.
Continue reading for a few answers to residents’ pertinent questions on the program.
Q: How does the 100% clean energy supply price compare to my current price?
The energy supply price provided by AEP Energy, a subsidiary of American Electric Power Co, Inc., was 5 cents more than the current AEP Ohio supply price for the first year in May. But on June 1, the AEP Ohio supply price was 5.36 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to AEP Energy’s 5.499 cents. (AEP Ohio is also an affiliate of AEP but is a separate company.)
AEP Ohio’s rate is set by an auction overseen by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio — charged with the regulation of the state’s utility service providers — and is said to be influenced by demand, cost of fuel, and other factors, and changes frequently.
Q: I’m not an AEP customer/I am a city Division of Power customer interested in this program. What does this mean for me?
Unfortunately, you are not eligible for this program yet.
The city chose AEP subsidiary AEP Energy for its aggregation program, meaning AEP Ohio customers — about two-thirds of Columbus residents and businesses — were automatically opted-in. Customers in the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP), large businesses, and customers under different electric providers, including residents and small businesses served by the City Division of Power, were not eligible for the program, per PUCO aggregation regulations.
The Columbus Division of Power does offer renewable energy solutions through its supplier contracts. Its energy is supplied by 20% renewable energy resources, with aims of getting to 50% by 2023. Visit columbus.gov/GreenPower for more information.
Q: Why should I remain in the program?
Residents enrolled in the program had until April 29 to opt-out of the program, however, you can still opt-out at any time without penalty, according to letters mailed out to eligible residents. The April date was likely given to encourage most customers who would opt out to do so sooner rather than later.
However, before opting out, there are benefits of being in the program.
It’s reportedly the third-largest aggregation program in the country and the largest outside of California. It’s expected to generate $1.7 million each year in funding for community grants prioritizing low income communities and communities of color.
The price of renewable energy continues to fall and will continue as solar panels become more efficient and more renewable energy facilities are built. Meanwhile, the cost of fossil fuels has nowhere to go but up.
The switch to renewable energy can result in a decrease of $210 million in health care costs and the creation of 4,000 jobs through the construction and maintenance of new wind and solar assets.
Cathy Cowan Becker, chair of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign in Ohio and a member of the Sustainable Columbus External Partners Advisory Committee, says the program is a good model for aggregation nationally.
“This is a ground-breaking model program for the country,” she said. “Columbus has taken a huge leap forward with clean energy, and is leading the nation on what a renewable energy aggregation program should look like.”
Visit cleanenergycolumbus.org for more information.