Village Council—Local electricity mega-green
- Published: July 18, 2019
Yellow Springs has the greenest power supply of the 139 municipal members of its electric supplier. It may even be the greenest on the region’s electric grid.
Mike Migliore and Pam Sullivan of American Municipal Power, or AMP, shared that news at Council’s July 1 regular meeting.
Migliore, AMP’s vice president of power supply, gave an update on the Village’s electric portfolio ahead of a discussion on residential solar production.
Currently, the Village purchases 83% of the 37,000 megawatt-hours of electricity it uses from green sources. That includes hydroelectric (50%), landfill gas (26%), the Glass Farm solar array (5%) and wind (2%). The rest, 17%, it procures from the open market, which is mostly coal, natural gas and nuclear, he reported.
“That makes you greenest member of AMP,” Migliore said.
By contrast, renewables made up only 3% of Ohio’s total electricity generation last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Coal was at 47%, natural gas accounted for 34% and nuclear came in at 15%.
“You have the cleanest carbon footprint of probably any municipality in the PJM,” said Sullivan, the executive VP of AMP, referring to the organization that manages the electric grid in the mid-Atlantic region.
As recently as 2015, the Village was buying close to 70% of its electricity from the open market and was one of AMP’s “lowest cost members at the time,” Migliore said. That changed after the three new hydroelectric plants the Village committed to a decade ago came online.
“We’ve seen an increase in your power costs in the last few years,” Migliore said.
Last year, the Village paid $92 per megawatt, up from $63 per megawatt in 2015. However, that figure is forecast to drop to $81 per megawatt by 2023 as the debt costs for new hydro plants drop.
Council Vice President Marianne MacQueen asked about the benefits of the long-term investment in hydroelectricity, which the village committed to through the 2040s.
“As we get to the next generation of Yellow Springs citizens, they’ll see a project without debt,” Migliore responded
Migliore said that the village’s electricity costs are about average compared to other AMP members. However, in the last few years, its lowest-paying member communities were paying the low-$80s per MW as cheap natural gas generation flooded the market. In response to a question from MacQueen, Sullivan said that was largely due to fracking.
“These are the lowest prices for power and natural gas in the last 15 years,” Migliore said.
In response to a question from Council President Brian Housh, asking how the Village could maintain its renewable focus but lower its costs further, Migliore suggested increasing demand and cutting peak use. He also said renewables are dropping in price, which will help the village.
“If you are using more, that will bring the cost down,” Migliore said.
Yellow Springs’ electricity demand peaked in 1999 at more than 11.1 MW, which, at the time, AMP considered too high.
“At that point, the Village took on some energy efficiency … that has been a success,” Migliore said.
More recently, peak demand came in at 8.26 MW last summer. Overall, local use has been on the uptick in recent years, and is expected to grow close to 1% next year, Migliore said.
“On the demand side, the village has had decent load growth,” he said.
But villagers should also cut their use when “peak shaving” occurs during the hot summer months, he said. Last year, the Village saved $22,000 from villagers voluntarily reducing their usage during peak shaving alerts, according to Migliore’s presentation.
Looking ahead, Migliore said there will be some room in the Village’s portfolio for “community solar or another project,” when a landfill gas project that makes up 16% of the portfolio drops off at the end of 2021. AMP will also likely suggest the Village buy into a new wind project.
“The further we go out, we leave some room for other opportunities,” Migliore said.
Overall, a community should aim to buy about 10% of its electricity off of the open market, he added.
AirBnbs may become conditional use
Council passed the first reading of an ordinance changing transient guest lodging — such as AirBnbs — from a permitted to a conditional use in the zoning code. The change would require those wanting to start a transient guest lodging establishment to appear before Planning Commission, where conditions could be added or the application could be denied.
The vote was 3–0, with MacQueen abstaining because she offers guest lodging at her property. Council member Kevin Stokes was absent.
Council and Planning Commission have discussed the matter over the last few months, after Council members raised concerns about the impact of guest lodging on affordable housing and neighborhood cohesion.
Last month there were 36 transient guest establishments in Yellow Springs, 26 of which were owner-occupied, according to a staff memo to Council.
The following legislation was passed 4–0:
• Council approved a lease with John Bryan Community Pottery in the “penguin building” behind the Bryan Center. Over five-years, the pottery shop will pay $300 rent per month (increasing 5%/year) and agrees to pay up to $12,000 in building repairs . The pottery studio had not paid rent in the four decades it has used the building.
• Council passed, without comment, the first reading of several ordinances that align voting procedures of the Board of Zoning Appeals with those of the Planning Commission and Village Charter.
• Council passed a resolution granting an easement to Vectren on the Village-owned property on Railroad Street, which is currently a parking lot.
• Supplemental appropriations were passed to pay for a new HVAC system in the Bryan Center gym and to transfer revenue from the lodging tax to finish a sidewalk section along Fairfield Pike.
• Council passed a tax budget for the Greene County Auditor to use to assess property taxes. Tax revenues this year are projected to be $3.72 million, up from $3.57 in 2018, and a deficit is not expected at year’s end, according to Finance Director Colleen Harris at the meeting.
• Arbor Care of Yellow Springs was awarded a $85,000 contract for tree trimming, after submitting the lowest of two bids.
Council’s next meeting is Monday, July 15, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.