At a time when the state of Ohio is rolling back energy-efficiency standards, a group of community governments in southeast Ohio have formed the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC), Athens News reports. The group has drafted a plan to lower electricity prices and produce more renewable energy for Athens County.
SOPEC’s plan, dubbed UpGrade Athens County, is a semifinalist for the Georgetown University Energy Prize to become the most energy efficient community in the nation. If SOPEC wins, it will receive $5 million to go toward energy efficiency efforts.
When Ohio deregulated its electric utility sector in 1999, Ohio residents were given the power to choose from whom they purchased their electricity. The Ohio Community Choice Act further increased residents’ purchasing power by allowing communities to purchase power on behalf of all its residents. While previous efforts to band together all residents have focused solely on using collective bargaining power to get the lowest electricity price possible, some communities have used this bulk purchasing power to ensure the power supplied to participating communities comes from clean energy sources.
SOPEC’s plan focuses on ensuring Athens-area citizens pay less for electricity and have access to programs that will help them use energy more efficiently so they can lower their electricity bills even more.
Since its inception, SOPEC has negotiated a 28 percent reduction in energy costs, created energy-efficiency programs to help Athens-area citizens reduce their energy use and ensured SOPEC citizens will derive 25 percent of their power from clean energy sources. The plan also promotes new local clean-energy projects, so eventually Athens County can supply its residents with the clean energy they use.
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