Programs enacted by the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council, or SOPEC, could decrease money spent on public energy.
SOPEC is a public energy council that aims to decrease energy costs for eligible communities in southeast Ohio.
The proposed opt-out retail community solar program that will appear on the May 8 ballot aims to decrease individual energy consumption and increase public solar through an about $2 monthly carbon fee. The money from that tax would then collect in an electricity aggregation fund that would fund solar power on public buildings in Athens.
As the availability of solar power in Athens grows, renewable energy certificates that are currently purchased from wind farms in Texas could be transferred to local solar options.
“Folks in the community want clean energy, but they may not have access,” Eddie Smith, executive director of SOPEC, said in a previous Post report. “The whole challenge is to come up with a finance model to contribute to solar projects that would contribute to public solar.”
Smith said the electric aggregation program may not make taxes go down for taxpayers, but rather less taxpayer money would be used on energy costs for public buildings.
“With more people, the better the pricing is,” Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who is vice chair of the SOPEC Board of Directors, said. “The carbon fee, which is not a tax, is no different than an administration fee that you would see on your utility bill.”
Energy customers who use more than 700,000 kilowatt hours of energy consumption yearly cannot legally participate in the opt-out community solar program. SOPEC, however, introduced a program for larger customers, such as school districts and hospitals, to enjoy the same savings as those who participate in the opt-out community solar program, according to the SOPEC website.
Another proposed SOPEC program is one that would hire a company to design, build and operate a biogas facility. The company, Quasar Energy Group, would transport organic waste from underground septic tanks to a facility at the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center. The waste from the septic tanks would break down into methane, which would produce a large amount of natural gas that could be used for power, Smith said.
Smith said SOPEC also has a low-interest loan program that has a 3 percent fixed interest rate for small businesses looking to become more energy efficient. SOPEC will finance the project only if the equipment purchased would be more economically efficient than the old equipment.
Proponents of clean energy, such as Mathew Roberts, info and outreach director at UpGrade Ohio, said SOPEC’s work is important for clean energy in the future.
“SOPEC recognizes that there is a cost to excess carbon dioxide emissions,” Roberts said.