Village Council considers gas aggregate program
- Published: March 18, 2023
At their most recent meeting on Monday, March 6, Village Council members heard a presentation from Sustainable Ohio Public Energy Council, or SOPEC, about its gas aggregation program.
This presentation came ahead of two public hearings — the first scheduled March 17 and the second, March 20 — where villagers can share their views about joining the aggregate program.
Council President Brian Housh said the presentation followed meetings of three gas aggregators with Housh, Village Manager Josué Salmerón, and Council member Marianne MacQueen. Salmerón recommended SOPEC for Council’s consideration.
According to the SOPEC website, the organization was formed in 2014 to provide more purchasing power for small communities who rely on natural gas for a portion of their energy. There are currently 22 member communities, which form a regional council of governments.
Luke Sulfridge, executive director of SOPEC, and Philip Leppa, legal counsel and southwest director for SOPEC, gave the presentation to Council, highlighting the benefits of joining an aggregate program and some of SOPEC’s current initiatives.
Should Yellow Springs choose to join SOPEC, they would join cities and villages such as Dayton and Athens, Ohio, as part of SOPEC’s governing body. Other communities, such as Riverside, Ohio, are in the process of joining SOPEC, Sulfridge said.
According to Sulfridge, part of SOPEC’s mission is to provide economic development through USDA grants and other opportunities.
“We look at [economic development] through a sustainability lens,” Sulfridge said, giving an example of an initiative to place solar arrays on farms and small businesses.
Sulfridge also discussed the Main Street Program, a SOPEC initiative that seeks to maintain historical buildings and districts and focus on heritage tourism in its partner cities.
“The greenest building is the one you don’t have to build,” Sulfridge said.
Historically, Sulfridge said, SOPEC has only provided electric aggregation for its member communities. At the request of its members and other communities looking to join, SOPEC decided to include gas aggregation services to provide decarbonization strategies to communities.
“We feel we are not doing justice to a full climate strategy if we are not [including] gas,” Sulfridge said, “but we aren’t going to make gas green.”
Sulfridge said the hope is to build out the gas aggregation program, help members become more reliant on sustainable energy and phase out natural gas. This can be done by installing heat pumps, trading gas-run appliances to electric and upgrading lighting.
“Our goal is to shrink this program as we build it,” Sulfridge said.
If Yellow Springs chooses to join SOPEC, the village would be one of the first in SOPEC’s gas aggregate, a new offering from the organization. In a follow-up interview, Leppa said three communities are looking to join the gas aggregation program within the next month, and 12 additional communities will vote on joining SOPEC in the fall.
“We love doing new and novel things,” Sulfridge said. “We’ve been talking with other like-minded communities around the state … [to determine how] to structure a program with a natural gas aggregation that has a net positive benefit to the community.”
Council member Marianne MacQueen asked how the billing would be handled if the Village joined SOPEC.
“Will the readiness to serve charge be the same? Does everyone who pays for the gas, Dayton, Athens, pay the same?” MacQueen asked.
Salmerón said villagers would still pay a third party provider, like CenterPoint Energy; the Village would be the supplier. The rates members would pay would depend on the contract SOPEC was able to negotiate.
In response to a question from Council member Gavin DeVore Leonard, Salmerón said the cost of joining SOPEC would be passed on to gas customers through an administrative fee. Benefits of joining SOPEC would include opportunities for grants and smaller solar installation projects.
If the legislation to join SOPEC is passed, villagers would have the opportunity to “opt out” of the program.
The Village would follow in the footsteps of Greene County, whose residents in unincorporated areas voted to join a gas aggregate in November. The Greene County Commissioners are working with energy broker Palmer Energy to facilitate their aggregation program, according to minutes from Greene County Commissioner’s Feb. 16 meeting.
To be in compliance with Ohio Revised Code mandates, the Village must hold two hearings for public comments before they vote to join a gas aggregate. The first meeting Friday, March 17, will be from 11 a.m.–noon. The second meeting Monday, March 20, is scheduled from 5–6 p.m. and will precede Council’s regular meeting.
In other Council business, March 6:
Electric vehicle charging stations
Council passed an ordinance aimed at managing electric vehicle charging stations. According to Salmerón, the electric vehicle charging stations currently housed at the Bryan Center were not regulated. The proposed ordinance would limit use of the station to four hours, and pave the way for Council to assess a fee to charge. The fee would cover the cost of electricity and maintenance to the charging stations.
Multi-modal path agreement
Council unanimously passed a resolution entering into a contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation to update a multi-modal path on Dayton Street between East Enon Road and Stafford Street. The total cost of the project is $1.8 million and will be funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Day of Transgender Visibility
Council unanimously passed a resolution recognizing March 18 as Transgender Day of Visibility. In addition to recognizing that day, the resolution signifies a commitment by the Village to provide a safe space for trans and nonbinary people and prohibits Village departments and employees from denying equal access to Village services because of users’ gender identity or expression.
Ohio Local Government Fund
Council passed a resolution requesting the Ohio governor and members of the Ohio General Assembly to restore the Local Government Fund to pre-recession levels. Housh said the reduction of the fund has resulted in diminished monies allocated to budgets of municipalities such as Yellow Springs.
Council’s next regular meeting will be held Monday, March 20.