Solar Panels

A 225-kilowatt solar PV system with 936 panels sits atop a set of car canopies over the Athens Community Center parking lot. The system provides more than 25 percent of the building’s annual electricity. Dovetail Solar and Wind installed the system.

A carbon fee is now in effect on all city of Athens electricity bills.

The fee will cost residents an estimated $1.60-1.80 a month in extra utility costs. The fee is 0.2 cents per kilowatt hour, but is expected to generate between $100-140,000 annually. The fee was implemented July 1, after it was approved by a ballot initiative in May 2018.

The initiative was overwhelmingly supported at the time.

The opt-out carbon fee will charge Athens members of the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) electric aggregation program 0.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity used. The average household consumes between 800 and 900 kilowatt hours each month, according to SOPEC estimates, meaning members will pay a monthly fee between $1.60 and $1.80.

As The Messenger has reported, the fee is meant to work as an incentive for members to consume less energy in their homes. The fee would also be used to fund solar installation projects on public buildings in the city, such as city-owned buildings, schools and buildings used by public boards.

To opt out of the fee, city residents will have to opt out of the aggregation program entirely. Smith said current members who choose to opt out will not be charged and can do so anytime.

A benefit to having local solar energy projects would be receiving Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which are issued when one megawatt-hour of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy source. Energy users can purchase RECs and assign them to their energy consumed from the grid.

The carbon fee will help the city meet its goals outlined in the Athens City Sustainability Plan. Solar development in the city is one of the main goals of the energy portion of the sustainability plan. Federal solar tax credits are available through 2023 to help fund renewable energy installations.

Additionally, the fee will align with the promise Mayor Steve Patterson made to continue honoring the Paris Climate Accord when he became a member of the national Climate Mayors group.

According to the mayor, the subsequent savings on electric bills from installed solar systems could help the city redirect funds to other uses in town.

The funds collected from the fee will be managed by SOPEC through an interest-bearing account at the Ohio University Credit Union. The funds will be leveraged for solar arrays on public buildings, but no specific project has been tapped. Possible places for a new array include ARTS/West.

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