The SOPEC mission is to help communities identify how dollars are leaving their community through energy utility payments and to offer public services and public programs that keep more dollars in Southeast Ohio. SOPEC starts this process by educating communities about each portion of their electric and gas bills, and then providing opportunities for communities to purchase power and natural gas using governmental aggregation that secure the lowest rates from energy suppliers. When communities use electric and natural gas aggregation, a better default rate can be established for everyone in the community – and this helps save hundreds of dollars for homes and small businesses, and thousands for small governments.
In Southeast Ohio, most electric generation assets (power plants) and electric utility infrastructure (transmission pylons, power lines) are owned by private shareholder-owned companies headquartered outside of the region and often outside of the state. That means that SE Ohio dollars spent on electric utility bills tend to be dollars that get exported out of the region with little re-investment back into our local economies. Because so much of the SE Ohio economy is energy intensive (e.g. 15% of agricultural production income is spent on energy expenditure), outside ownership of SE Ohio’s electric utility and generation infrastructure makes it challenging for SE Ohio communities to develop their local economies. Creating flourishing SE Ohio economies is about developing communities where resources and dollars invested into the energy needs of industry, agriculture, small business, government, and other sectors stay in the community and are continually re-invested back into the same economy.
This SOPEC mission is advanced through three strategic priorities. The first priority is reducing barriers and costs for residential and commercial energy assessments that help community members determine where energy reductions are simple, sensible, and offer large utility savings. When energy use makes sense for community members, the second SOPEC priority is keeping more of each utility dollar within the local energy economy by collaborating with local government and business partners to facilitate local generation and behind-the-meter projects. The final SOPEC priority is ensuring that the benefits of this developing regional energy economy continue and are here to stay for the long run — SOPEC prioritizes investments in renewable energy infrastructure that makes wise use of our natural resources and preserves our local air, land, and water for future generations. To learn more about how SOPEC provides public value to our member communities and how SOPEC delivers on these priorities, please visit www.sopecinfo.org
In 2014, three local governments in southeast Ohio passed electric aggregation on the ballot: Athens City, Amesville Village, and all of the neighborhoods and households in unincorporated Athens County. These communities and their governments (Athens City Council, Amesville Village Council, and Athens County Board of Commissioners) held similar goals for reducing their community energy costs and developing local energy assets that improved the regional economy. These community government leaders sought a democratic process for helping their communities work together to pool their resources and gain additional bulk purchasing power when negotiating lower retail electric rates through aggregation. It was at this point that By-Laws were drafted and the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council was formed as a regional Council of Governments (COG). Since then, additional communities have joined SOPEC with their elected officials serving and representing their community through the SOPEC General Assembly.
Municipal Government Electric Services
The SOPEC Opt-In Electric Aggregation (Mercantile) program was established to provide a savings option for certain electric utility customers who are disqualified under Ohio law from participating in the Opt-Out Electric Aggregation program. The SOPEC Opt-In program was created to allow large electric customers with over 700,000 kWh per year and/or customers with more than one account or meter to achieve the electric rate savings.
Demand Response Accounts
Occasional storms and heat waves, as well as periodic power plant repairs and maintenance, have the potential to affect Ohio’s supply and demand for electricity. When demand is high and supply is short, power interruptions can sometimes be the result. Demand Response programs are designed by regional utilities to enable customers to contribute to energy load reduction during reduction events (times of critical peak demand) in exchange for financial incentives (up to $27,000/MWh reduced).
Reduction events are rare and are only called when the stress on the electric grid is significant, and demand response customers may continue their operations uninterrupted through temporary on-site generation. SOPEC can help governments and businesses that wish to participate in a demand response program administered by the customer’s electric utility (AEP Ohio, for example).
Street Lighting Accounts
Southeast Ohio villages, cities, townships, and counties often face major utility expenses for providing street lighting in their communities. However, it can often be challenging for local governments to compare street lighting pricing and determine whether they are receiving the best deal from their supplier. SOPEC can help local governments examine their street lighting accounts and negotiate lower rates so they can continue supplying adequate lighting throughout their communities and increase public safety.
Commercial Energy Services
USDA REDA Assessments
SOPEC is excited to be the first and only Ohio recipient of the USDA REDA grant, with $100,000 in funding from the USDA to help local small businesses and farms develop energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. As a result, SOPEC is excited to partner with UpGrade Ohio to find projects that make sense for our local farmers and business owners, and offer simple financing plans with large energy savings and quick payback periods from lower utility bills.
UpGrade Ohio staff will work with local small business owners and agricultural producers to discuss their energy needs and utility bills, and see if an investment into energy efficiency improvements or renewable generation under the USDA REAP grant makes sense for their business. If your small business or farm is located in a SOPEC community, you can visit UpGrade Ohio here to learn more about how to receive a free project site assessment that can be used to apply for USDA REAP grant or loan guarantee support.
PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy, and allows property owners within an Energy Special Improvement District (E-SID) to finance energy efficiency or renewable generation investments through a lien on their property. The PACE lien is recovered over time through an added property tax assessment. Because the payments are recovered through property tax assessments, there is much lower risk for the program’s lenders, which achieves a lower interest rate for the PACE participants.
In addition, PACE liens are not considered debt, and so they do not appear as liabilities on a business’s balance sheet or impact their credit. And when the property is sold, the PACE lien and the energy improvements that belong to the property remain with the property without any transfer hassle. Finally, under Ohio law, PACE projects can only be approved by the E-SID authority if the projected energy bill savings are greater than the increased property tax assessment. This means that PACE projects are legally guaranteed to achieve savings, with a lower interest rate than traditional borrowing and without impacting the borrower’s credit. Currently, PACE projects in the SOPEC program must be over $100,000 in cost to qualify.
What SOPEC Can Offer
Lower Utility Bills
Exclusive for eligible residents of SOPEC member communities, AEP Energy is able to secure electricity at competitive prices on the open market in Ohio for SOPEC aggregation customers.
The Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council is by law a council of governments, made up of community officials purchasing power as a region rather than customer-by-customer.
SOPEC aims to serve southeast Ohio with a promising vision to reinvest in the communities it represents by engaging citizens with energy awareness and premium financing opportunities.
The Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council has a strong mandate to support the development of green, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, and efficiency projects.
Learn more about SOPEC at www.sopecinfo.org