At its regular meeting on Monday, May 16, village council members deliberated legislation that would allow village manager Josué Salmerón to sell renewable energy credits, or RECs, and buy more at a rate inferior.
In a presentation to Council, Salmerón said he would like to sell some of the CERs the village has acquired from the Blue Creek Wind Farm and buy eco-friendly e-RECs at a lower cost. He said wind RECs cost $20-30 and the village could buy replacement RECs for $3-4. According to Salmerón’s estimate, the village could make up to $60,000 by selling RECs and spend around $10,000 buying replacements.
“This sale would bring in $50,000 that would be available for capital improvements to the electrical business,” Salmerón said. “With the uncertainty we currently face in energy markets, we could benefit from additional cash reserves available to make such investments.”
According to previous News reports, the first sale of RECs took place in early 2020, a sale which at the time was estimated to be around $163,000 in revenue. Selling these RECs was a change in policy, as previous councils had chosen to keep any credits the village had earned by purchasing renewable energy.
Council members were divided over whether to vote on a bill that would allow Salmerón to sell the village’s CERs.
Council member Marianne MacQueen offered to table the question, saying the group needed more information to make a good decision.
“There are differing opinions on the sale of RECs and I think it’s very complicated. I would like the Council to take that into account,” MacQueen said, suggesting organizations such as AMP and Power Clean Ohio.
This motion ultimately failed, with Council Members Brian Housh and Kevin Stokes voting against the filing, Council Members Carmen Brown and MacQueen voting for the filing, and Council Member Gavin DeVore-Leonard abstaining.
“I’m waiting to get a little more experienced,” 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 one of the first buyers of renewable energy.
Concurring with Devore-Leonard, Stokes asked about the quality of a REC; Salmerón said all RECs represent one megawatt of electricity and 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 where the demand is different.
Council members also heard from Director of Public Works, Johnnie Burns, who said he would like the Council to redirect any money from REC sales to the energy portfolio.
“No, I don’t want to sell the RECs,” Burns said. “If we are going to sell the CERs, I want the Board to commit to putting it back into the electric fund through capital improvements.”
MacQueen echoed Burns’ sentiments, saying, “The only reason I would support selling our CERs is if we put them in some sort of project that is clearly going to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Part of the discussion focused on the ethics of selling CERs. MacQueen said she was not in favor of buying RECs in order to claim “green” status. Stokes said maintaining a number of CERs was good for the village, despite the selling price.
“We are taking advantage of an opportunity to improve the number of RECs we have by trading green RECs for other green RECs,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve come to this ethical dilemma.”
Salmerón said that by selling its CERs, the village would operate within the boundaries of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.
“We wouldn’t be the first municipality to take advantage of this,” he said, referring to Oberlin, Ohio.
According to the EPA’s website, “RECs are the instrument that electricity consumers must use to substantiate claims of renewable electricity use.” When municipalities buy RECs, it means that they buy credits for the use of renewable energy; Conversely, a municipality that produces green energy can only claim to use renewable energy if it has RECs.
In response to a claim that the village should make an economic rather than an ethical decision, MacQueen said the reason the village was buying green power was because of principle.
“There is a reason cheaper CERs are cheaper: they are less valuable. What does that mean? I don’t know,” she said. “If we’re going to go to the extra expense to have green power contracts, then we all really need to understand what it means to sell CERs and buy cheap CERs.”
Council members voted to amend the legislation to say that funds generated from the sale of RECs would be spent on local renewable energy projects.
After that vote, villagers John Hempfling and Rebecca Potter and village lawyer Breanne Parcels commented on parliamentary procedure, telling Devore-Leonard he could hold the conversation until Council heard more. on RECs. Devore-Leonard then asked to be given advance notice if a topic was more complex and required more research.
Because the amendment passed, Brown moved a motion to table the amended resolution.
The tabling motion passed by a vote of 3 to 2, with Housh and Stokes voting no.
More coverage of the May 16 village council meeting will appear in next week’s edition of the News.