Four firms have submitted their proposals to transform Columbus’ electric supply into a 100% renewable market – but the city wants to keep a lid on them until after it selects a winner in about a week.
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s administration said this week that it needs the public’s ideas quickly on how the city should deliver 100% renewable electricity to residents through “aggregation” by 2022.
But four really important ideas will remain secret for now: the proposals of firms that actually applied to become the city’s preferred green-power provider.
Those plans outline how an aggregation firm could meet demand for Ohio’s largest city with an estimated 1.7 million megawatt hours of green power – including potentially constructing new local wind and solar farms and purchasing “credits” from far-away generating facilities.
“The city prefers not to release the responses to an RFP (request for proposal) until we have selected a finalist to ensure a fair process,” said Erin Beck, director of special projects for Ginther.
The firms applying for the job are: AEP Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Columbus energy giant AEP; WGL Energy; Dynegy; and Energy Harbor (Formerly FirstEnergy, which changed its name after a state bailout of its nuclear plants earlier this year), which has teamed with Hecate Energy.
One local solar startup hopes to get a piece of the action, and has talked with AEP about a partnership: BQ Energy, which just announced that it will lease 173 acres of a closed South Side landfill from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio for 25 years to operate a solar farm.
“Yes, we think we can be an excellent part of the mix,” said Paul Curran, BQ’s managing director.
Columbus Solar Park will generate 50 megawatts per year, enough to power about 5,000 households, and will come online just in time in 2022. The firm hopes to reach out to all four bidders in Columbus’ aggregation project, and has already contacted EAP because “I knew AEP would be one, of course,” Curran said.
On July 20 the Columbus City Council is expected to approve placing a measure on the November ballot allowing for the “opt out” plan. Because such a plan would automatically enroll every electric customer, placing the burden on them to opt out rather than in, state law requires the vote.
The city requested 20-page proposals that were to include how each firm would: construct small or large-scale renewable development through a “power purchase agreement,” use existing renewable power installations that the firm owns or holds contracts for, has begun developing or plans to develop; and make up the green-power deficit through “unbundled or bundled” renewable energy credits, or RECs.
The city prefers “bundled,” in which it receives both the certificates and the actual power, from a generator, the RFP says.
The firms are also required to “support city’s campaign efforts to gain community support in advance of ballot initiative,” the RFP states, without elaborating.
The winning firm also must pay the city, again out of residents’ monthly electric bills, a “community grant.” The size of the payments or what they will be used for are not detailed.
The RFP says the city intends to select a supplier also on July 20 – two weeks after the deadline passed last Monday for firms to submit their proposals. By the end of the month it will sign a “memorandum of understanding,” a legal document that typically outlines commitments and terms that the parties will work toward in a final contract.
The firms will be scored on a 95-point scale, with the most points, 40, awarded for their plan to supply the power. Other points are for locations of plants, with those inside the city of Columbus worth the most points – making the SWACO project attractive.
Final negotiations are to begin Nov. 5 and conclude with a signed contract by Jan. 6, 2021, the RFP says.
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