Divided BG Council rejects incentives for renewable energy

A closely-divided Bowling Green Council voted 4-3 against creating a Residential Renewable Resource Installation Account and a RRR Generation Account that would have provided annual incentive payments for some renewable energy generation.

The legislation, which was presented at last week’s meeting, stated that if a resident met some stipulations, he or she would be eligible for a one-time renewable installation payment of $1,000.

The stipulations: one resident per household has paid for the installation of a customer-owned Bowling Green residential renewable electric generation facility, has a Bowling Green Municipal Utility-approved interconnection agreement, and the installed facility has successfully produced electricity which has been delivered to the utility.

They would also be eligible for an annual renewable energy incentive payment, the amount of which would have been variable based on assorted factors.

Prior to the vote, Councilman Bill Herald, who worked on the legislation, said its impetus was a board of public utilities’ decision which reduced the payback received by residents who sell excess power generated by their solar panels back to the city’s electric grid. It further instituted a monthly charge on solar panels.

Herald said the legislation was an effort to simply see what could be done, and was not a negative reflection on the BPU.

“The legislation is a pilot study,” he said, in an effort to give residents a modest incentive. “It’s not going to solve any environmental crisis, but it is a step, I believe, in the right direction.”

Herald said that legislation deliberately left the specifics of the financial matters to be decided later.

“I think we’re all wanting to ensure that there is more sustainability within our electric grid,” said Councilman Nick Rubando.

However, he noted that the city administration and some on the BPU had had concerns about the legislation and that he felt the way the legislation was set up was not in the city’s best interests.

Council President Mark Hollenbaugh said he was not in favor of the legislation.

“As someone who doesn’t own a home, I look at this and it seems to be what we’re doing is, we’re taking tax dollars, we’re giving it to people, number one, who can afford a home and, number two, can afford to invest in solar. And we’re giving them money,” he said. “I think there are things we can do as a council to further sustainability in the community. I just don’t feel this really accomplishes anything.”

“I guess if I were to take issue with anything, it is the framing of this as some sort of an attack on the board of public utilities,” said Councilman Jeff Dennis. “I think that it is a proportional response given the ability that we have to address” climate issues.

“We should all be happy about this,” Herald said. “We’re increasing our tools that we’ve been consistently advocating for, for decades. We’re adding another tool in our toolbox to enhance what we can do with regards to sustainability and resources.”

Hollenbaugh, Joel O’Dorisio, Greg Robinette and Rubando voted against the measure. Herald, Dennis and Rachel Phipps were in favor of it.

Also at the Nov. 22 meeting, council:

• Introduced an ordinance amending and adopting six sections of the codified ordinances of the city, regarding fines and fees charges for services. According to the legislative package document prepared for council, an area of emphasis for this year’s staff review of fees and fines “relates to parking fees and fines. Parking fines have not been adjusted in 14 years, since 2008. Costs associated with parking enforcement have continued to rise over that time time period. The proposal is to increase the fines by a modest amount with the aim that the projected revenue will help offset at least a portion of the amount required to fund the city enforcement of timed parking limits. Staff is also recommending to do away with the 13-week and 39-week parking pass. Most residents in the downtown area purchase the 52-week parking pass, with some wanting 26-week passes.”

• Introduced an ordinance authorizing Utilities Director Brian O’Connell to apply for a loan and execute an agreement with the Ohio EPS/Ohio Water Development Authority for Water Supply Revolving Loan Account funding for the design, engineering, and construction of South Main Street water main improvements. According to the legislative package document, “the cost for engineering and construction is estimated at $1,500,000 and we anticipate the need for an OEPA/OWDA loan to fund the project in 2023. An engineering firm will be needed to prepare construction bid documents for the water main replacement. The plan is to have the engineering consultant review the storm sewer infrastructure on South Main Street and the potential benefits of adding storm water detention in the corridor.”

• Heard from Public Services Director Joe Fawcett that the inclusive playground at Carter Park could be open by the end of this week. He said that, to date, city staff have spent over 1,000 hours on the project.

• Went into executive session to discuss a matter required to be kept confidential by federal law, federal rules or state statues. No action was taken.