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Cincinnati shifts to 100 percent clean energy

Cincinnati shifts to 100 percent clean energy

As UrbanCincy first projected in February, city officials have decided to buy 100 percent renewable energy credits. In the process, Cincinnati will be getting rid of its allegiance to Duke Energy. From the Huffington Post:

Today, Duke Energy found out that more than 50,000 commercial and residential electricity users in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio are dumping Duke and shifting to 100 percent clean energy. Cincinnati is a trendsetter: it is the first city in Ohio, and the first of its size in the nation, to go 100 percent green.

Business News Politics Transportation

Cincinnati plans to rid city vehicles of fossil fuels by 2025

Like any major city, Cincinnati owns and operates a lot of vehicles, and those vehicles produce a significant amount of carbon emissions that pollute the region’s environmental systems. As city leaders are working on implementing a 100 percent renewable energy plan, they are also developing a plan that would end the city’s dependence on gasoline or diesel motor fuels by 2025.

“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 sector,” said Larry Falkin, director of Cincinnati’s Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ). “This is part of a total package, and a significant piece, in terms of branding Cincinnati as a progressive city.”

Action on the new Green Fleet Plan was made possible, Falkin says, when City Council approved phase one of the City Fleet Plan in November 2011. The Green Fleet Plan is being developed for the City’s 3,654 vehicles and is expected to be finished by mid-2012.

A Zipcar sits on display at the University of Cincinnati’s main campus uptown. Photograph by 5chw4r7z.

According to a 2011 report, the City’s existing vehicle fleet has an average age of seven years and has a median fuel efficiency of 12.15 miles per gallon. Over the course of a year those vehicles consume more than two million gallons of fuel with more than 95 percent coming from gasoline and diesel. City officials expect their current annual fuel cost of $5.1 million to continue to rise s gasoline prices are expected to escalate in the near future and maintain high prices over the long-term.

Another partial solution presented itself in September 2011 when Zipcar entered the Cincinnati market. Prior to the carsharing company entering the Cincinnati market, discussions about whether the City could leverage such a service were taking place.

The idea would be that the City could contract with Zipcar to provide a certain number of vehicles in the city and the city would then utilize the service for quick runs when employees need to be on-site for inspections or other service calls. The service would not completely eliminate the need for city-owned vehicles, but it is envisioned as lessening the need for the city to own as many automobiles.

“The City is interested in starting a city carsharing service within the city, and we are currently in negotiations with Zipcar,” Falkin told UrbanCincy.

Falkin says that original negotiations came to a halt when the City realized there were purchasing requirements to which it had to adhere. As a result, Falkin says, the City will be moving forward with these discussions but will be looking at a competitive bidding process that will engage more than just Zipcar.

Currently more than half of all of the City’s vehicles are past their current life cycles. Based on original equipment values, it is estimated that to replace the entire fleet would cost approximately $50 million. $5.2 million was budgeted for vehicle replacement in 2012.

Business News Politics Transportation

Duke Energy announces they will leave streetcar negotiations, city fires back

Yesterday was a tumultuous day for Cincinnati’s modern streetcar project. With virtually all other issues resolved, and construction forthcoming, Duke Energy made the announcement that they would walk away from negotiations with the City of Cincinnati about the relocation of their utilities.

The impasse comes over cost. Based on other similar projects, the City believes the utilities only need to be relocated three feet, but Duke Energy has stated an eight-food clearance is needed. That five-foot difference roughly equates to an $11 million funding gap.

The Duke Energy announcement seemed to take project and city officials by surprise. But the strong stance by Duke Energy does come at the same time as the City of Cincinnati is aggressively pursuing a new energy aggregation agreement that has the potential to cost Duke Energy significant business.

Future Cincinnati Streetcar stop at Sixth and Walnut Street. Photograph by Randy A. Simes for UrbanCincy.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is currently in Washington D.C. at the Community Streetcar Coalition’s annual Streetcar Summit representing the City and discussing best practices with other cities that are building, or have built, streetcar systems.

“I am calling on Duke Energy to be reasonable and work with the City on a plan that will be best for both citizens and their customers. These issues will be resolved one way or another, just as we have resolved previous issues facing the project,” Mayor Mallory stated in a prepared release. “The best thing for everyone involved is if Duke is a part of that resolution. Walking away does not help to move our community forward.”

The mayor’s comments were then followed by an official press conference called by City Manager Milton Dohoney who elaborated on the mayor’s statements and went on to say that Duke Energy has yet to provide engineering documents to support their claims.

City Manager Dohoney began the press conference by stating that the Cincinnati Streetcar project will unequivocally be moving forward. He also stated that the City of Cincinnati should not be responsible for subsidizing the modernization of Duke Energy’s aging utility assets.

In the end, it appears as though the city has the leverage in the matter. A view expressed by city spokeswoman Meg Olberding who stated, “They’re our streets. This project is moving forward, and we intend to use our streets.”

Business News Politics

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).

Business Development News

Cincinnati Park Board wins state award, national praise for solar energy program

The Cincinnati Park Board has been pursuing a more sustainable future over the past few years. Projects have included solar trash compactors, geothermal wells, rain gardens, invasive non-native plant removal, rain barrels, wind turbines and the development of solar panels among others.

As a result of their efforts, the Cincinnati Park Board is now the owner of the largest number of solar-powered structures in Ohio. Additionally, their 2010 Solar Panel Installation project has earned the organization first place honors from the Ohio Parks & Recreation Association (OPRA) and a Green Award of Excellence.

“Cincinnati Park Board’s use of solar voltaics in their parks is laudatory and quite amazing,” said Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land. “It is possibly doing more than any other park agency in the country.”

Elsewhere across the United States the Center for City Park Excellence points to two solar-powered fountains in Kansas City, solar-powered concerts in Austin and solar-powered lights in Santa Fe. In Atlanta, Harnik notes, that officials with the Atlanta Beltline have installed a 35kW system in a 7.5-acre park there that should make the park economically neutral.

State officials say that the awards were judged in a two-tiered process which included a panel of parks and recreation professional from around the state in addition to the OPRA’s board of directors. Cincinnati park officials earned the award specifically for their aggressive solar energy project funded by $451,000 in federal grants, $300,000 in state grants and additional private funds that made the installation of solar photovoltaic panels at 13 park facilities possible.

Ault Park, Krohn Conservatory and International Friendship Park are three of the locations for solar installation that are contributing to an anticipated 166,900 kWh energy production. An operations headquarters at 3215 Reading Road is the largest production location generating an estimated 50,000 kWh.

Going forward the Center for City Parks Excellence sees the use of solar energy and other renewable energy sources within city parks as a unique opportunity, but that additional studies and analysis should be conducted from these early adopters. In particular, Harnik says that it will be interesting to find out how much money Cincinnati’s effort makes or loses, and how much energy is fed into the grid.

Friendship Pavilion rooftop solar panels photo by UrbanCincy contributor Thadd Fiala.