Cincinnati may soon be powered by 100% renewable energy

Cincinnati is working on a new power aggregation deal right now that could lead to the entire city being powered from 100 percent renewable energy sources. The deal, city officials say, could be finalized within the coming months and be in place for consumers by summer 2012.

Such a move would make Cincinnati the largest city in the United States to have its energy supply come from 100 percent renewable sources, and it might be accomplished without any significant cost difference for ratepayers.

The way it would work, city officials tell UrbanCincy, is by requiring power providers to include quotes for both the cheapest electricity available and 100 percent renewable electricity. In Oak Park, IL, for example, the bids came back so competitive that city officials decided to go with the 100 percent renewable solution.

Cincinnati businesses and homeowners may be supplied by 100% renewable energy as soon as this summer.

“There is no guarantee that our bids will come in the same as Oak Park’s, but the question may be whether we are willing to pay an additional one percent to pay for renewable energy,” explained Office of Environment Quality (OEQ) director Larry Falkin.

The movement towards sustainability has evidently picked up steam in Cincinnati as of late. At the first of two required public hearings, approximately 70 people came out to speak in favor of using completely renewable energy sources, and the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace flew a hot air ship over Cincinnati last week advocating for such change.

“The biggest thing impacting our carbon footprint is how we get our electricity,” said Falkin who explained that Cincinnati currently gets approximately 85 percent of its energy from coal. “This is probably the biggest opportunity we’ll have over the next several years to dramatically reduce Cincinnati’s carbon footprint.”

After a positive first hearing at City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, officials expect that the effort will move forward and receive approval from the full council on Wednesday. Should that take place, the request for proposals (RFP) would then go out within the next two to three weeks.

Even if the response to the city’s RFP does not come back as favorable as Oak Park’s, city officials may be able to structure the deal to offer consumers a choice between the cheapest electricity option and a 100 percent renewable electricity option.

“There are a lot of things Cincinnati is doing to position itself as a leader in sustainability and going green – both in the public and private sectors,” Falkin concluded. “This is a significant part of that total package in terms of branding Cincinnati as a progressive city, and cities across the country may start to look to adopt the Cincinnati solution for energy.”

The final Budget & Finance Committee meeting scheduled to discuss power aggregation will take place today at 1pm at City Hall (map).

  • This is certainly good news. One thing I’ve always been curious about, though, is why none of the nearby dams on the Ohio River were built with hydropower facilities? If they had done so, we’d already be getting a large portion of our energy from renewable sources. (Dams aren’t without their own environmental impacts, but those impacts are the same whether the dam generates electricity or not.) The cynic in me wonders if hydropower on the Ohio River was ruled out because of the influence of the coal industry in West Virginia and Kentucky.

    • David – There are multiple hydropower plants along the Ohio.  I have toured the Racine dam facility operated by AEP but many others and several proposed are listed here: 

    • Jacob Mecklenborg

      The City of Hamilton owns the rights to put a hydro plant on the Mendahl Dam, but it will not be a major source of power.  

  • Zachary Schunn

    Thanks for reporting on this, Randy.  The turn-out last week was incredible; let’s hope today is the same.  I’m a little skeptical of a summer 2012 timeline as there are plenty of bugs to work out (and for ex., it took Green Township 3 years to get a deal in place), but in the end this will be good for all.

    • I too thought it sounded aggressive, but city officials have the RFP process outlined and are prepared to move forward accordingly. I am not sure why it took Green Township so long to work out their aggregation deal, but it might just be that the City of Cincinnati is better equiped to manage the process.

  • Very cool, but does this help us decommission the existing fossil fuel powered plans along the Ohio? I’m glad our power could become clean, but how about our air?

    • The only way this would help to decommission those plants would be if demand for those plants started to drop so much that it doesn’t make business sense to operate them anymore. I suspect this will not happen, and as a result, the region will still be left with those existing plants along the Ohio River.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t see how a city the size of Cincinnati will be able to switch to 100% renewable sources without massive infrastructure investment. There simply isn’t the capacity in the region to meet demand with all renewable sources.  Be it wind, hydro, or nuclear, the generating capacity simply does not exist. Bids for 100% renewable energy are going to be higher because of the infrastructure investment required to meed demand.

    • This process would not involve the construction of new renewable energy sources. It is not something that is saying Cincinnati will produce all of its own energy, it is an agreement that would dictate how Duke Energy has to purchase and provide energy to the City of Cincinnati.

      If the city goes with the 100% renewable option, then Duke would be required to purchase 100% renewable energy from various providers that meets the energy aggregation agreement. Right now Cincinnatians don’t really have a say in the matter, and as a result, get approximately 80% of their electricy from coal.

  • SelfSustain Works

    I’m curious as to what the “100% renewable” options are.

  • Whatever happened to this?