Village Council discusses the sale of energy credits
- Published: June 2, 2022
At its regular meeting on Monday, May 16, Village Council members deliberated over legislation that would allow Village Manager Josué Salmerón to sell Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs, and purchase more at a lower rate.
In a presentation to Council, Salmerón said that he would like to sell some of the RECs the Village acquired from the Blue Creek wind farm and purchase green e-RECs at a lower cost. He said that the wind RECs are going for $20–$30 and the Village could purchase replacement RECs for $3–$4. By Salmerón’s estimation, the Village could get up to $60,000 by selling RECs and spend about $10,000 to purchase replacements.
“This sale would net $50,000 that would be available for capital improvements in the electric enterprise,” Salmerón said. “With the uncertainty we are facing now in the energy markets, we could benefit from having additional cash reserves available to make such investments.”
According to previous News reporting, the first sale of RECs was in early 2020, a sale that, at the time, was estimated to raise about $163,000 in revenue. The sale of those RECs was a change in policy, as previous Councils chose to retain all of the credits the Village earned by purchasing renewable energy.
Council members were split over the decision to take a vote on a piece of legislation that would allow Salmerón to sell the Village’s RECs.
Council member Marianne MacQueen moved to table the matter, saying that the group needed more information to make a good decision.
“There are differing opinions on selling RECs and I think that it’s very complicated. I would like more opinions for Council to consider,” MacQueen said, suggesting organizations such as AMP and Power Clean Ohio.
That motion ultimately failed, with Council members Brian Housh and Kevin Stokes voting against tabling, Council members Carmen Brown and MacQueen voting to table and Council member Gavin DeVore-Leonard abstaining.
“I’m waiting to get a little more seasoned,” Devore-Leonard said.
When Housh opened the public hearing, Devore-Leonard asked several clarifying questions about RECs and why municipalities would sell them.
“We were committed to the green energy revolution,” Salmerón said, explaining that the Village had valuable RECs because it was an early purchaser of renewable energy.
Dovetailing off of Devore-Leonard, Stokes asked about the quality of a REC; Salmerón said that all RECs represent one megawatt of power, and that the price difference depends on the market in which they are generated. In other words, some RECs are cheaper because they are created in a market with different amounts of demand.
Council members also heard testimony from Public Works Director Johnnie Burns, who said he would like Council to direct any money from REC sales back into the energy portfolio.
“No, I do not want to sell the RECs,” Burns said. “If we are going to sell the RECs, I want Council’s commitment to put it back into the electric fund through capital improvements.”
MacQueen echoed Burns’ sentiments, saying, “The only reason I would support selling our RECs is if we put them into some kind of project that is clearly going to lower our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Part of the discussion focused on the ethics of selling RECs. MacQueen said she was not in favor of purchasing RECs in order to claim a “green” status. Stokes said that maintaining a certain number of RECs was good for the Village, despite the sale price.
“We are taking advantage of an opportunity to improve the number of RECs we have by trading some green RECs for some other green RECs,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve gotten to that ethical dilemma.”
Salmerón said that, in selling its RECs, the Village would be operating within the constraints of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.
“We would not be the first municipality to take advantage of this,” he said, referencing Oberlin, Ohio.
According to the EPA website, “RECs are the instrument that electricity consumers must use to substantiate renewable electricity use claims.” When municipalities purchase RECs, it means that they are purchasing credit for renewable energy usage; conversely, a municipality that generates green energy can only claim to use renewable energy if they own RECs.
In response to an assertion that the Village should make an economic decision rather than an ethical one, MacQueen said the reason the Village was purchasing green energy was because of the principle.
“There’s a reason that the lower cost RECs are lower—they’re less valuable. What does that mean? I don’t know,” she said. “If we are going to go to the extra expense of having contracts with green energy, then we need to all really understand what it means to sell the RECs and buy cheap RECs.”
Council members voted to amend the legislation to say that the funds generated from the sale of the RECs would be spent on local renewable energy projects.
After that vote, villagers John Hempfling and Rebecca Potter and Village Solicitor Breanne Parcels gave comments on parliamentary procedure, telling Devore-Leonard that he could move to table the conversation until Council could learn more about RECs. Devore-Leonard then asked that he be given some notice should a topic be more complex and require more research.
Because the amendment was passed, Brown made a motion to table the amended resolution.
The motion to table passed on a 3-2 vote, with Housh and Stokes voting no.
More coverage of Village Council’s May 16 meeting will appear in next week’s edition of the News.