RECs Best Invested in Community Programs

John D. Elder, Oberlin Resident

To the Editors:

The Oberlin City Council wants to establish a Community Choice Fund to receive donations from credits it would begin giving on electric bills in July. The credits would come from 85 percent of the proceeds of the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates, as voted 4–2 by council in a surprise move on June 20 of last year. However, to credit ratepayers and then hire a PR firm to try to convince them to donate the credits back makes no sense. And it’s not fair!

The credits would be issued to rate payers on the basis of how much electricity they use. For the typical homeowner this would be about $9 a month. But for the large users it could be well over $100,000 a year. A homeowner can’t do much with $100 in a year to bring down the monthly utility bill. But a large user — Walmart, for example — could do a lot with $100,000 to cut its energy costs, such as install solar panels, as many Walmarts have done, and get big savings for decades to come on its monthly electric bill.

City Council has just received the results of a study of Oberlin’s housing. It shows that our city’s housing stock is substantially older than the average in Ohio. The Oberlin Review says, “This has led to a significant amount of wasted money because of faulty heating, cooling and old appliances, according to Coucilmember Sharon Soucy” (“Cleveland State Report Reveals Housing Deficiencies,” Feb. 17).

The Sustainable Reserve Fund is to be used for purposes reasonably related to the electric utility. If all the money generated by the sale of RECs — $2.6 million to date — goes to community programs with long-term benefit, such as helping cut homeowners’ utility bills by upgrading our older housing stock, as Councilmember Soucy suggests, the groups most lacking in affordable housing — seniors and low-income residents — can benefit the most. And the city can take a giant step toward achieving its Climate Action Plan greenhouse gas emissions goals.

That’s why Communities for Safe and Sustainable Energy supports using the REC money as originally intended.

– John D. Elder
Oberlin resident