The Oak Park Board of Trustees reviewed a number of options for establishing a solar power project in the village with a fund established in 2015 that allows residents to contribute to the fund.

The Community Choice Electrical Aggregation program directs three-tenths of a cent per kilowatt hour from participating residents’ electric bill to a fund to be used for a local renewable energy project.

The aggregation fund was established to replace an earlier program whereby part of participating residents’ electric bill was used to purchase so-called renewable energy credits (also known as RECs) from producers of green energy.

That aggregation fund has collected $807,854 as of January 2018, and now Oak Park is figuring out how to use it.

Mark Pruitt, principal of the Illinois Energy Choice Aggregation Network, presented trustees four options for using the funds at a special board meeting on March 13, which  focused on environmental topics. 

Pruitt suggested the village consider one of the following: provide credits to building owners for installing solar panels, engage a private developer to install solar arrays on village facilities to reduce utility costs, install solar on village hall and allow residents to purchase the energy it produces or establish a community solar program with a private developer to generate energy that the village could use to reduce its utility costs.

Trustees did not make a final decision on the topic at the Monday meeting. Village Manager Cara Pavlicek noted that the fund will have collected roughly $1 million by August, when the village hopes to begin construction of whatever project it chooses.

Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said he believes the village should follow the recommendation of Mac Robinet, who first recommended the aggregation fee in 2015 in place of the former renewable energy credit system.

Robinet recommends working with a developer to leverage the aggregation funds to build a large-scale project.

“What I like about this is it puts us on the map of doing something at a large scale instead of piecemeal things,” Abu-Taleb said. 

He said a project like the one Robinet suggests “reflects a large commitment to who we are as a community.”

Trustee Dan Moroney said a portion of the fund also could be used to install energy-efficient LED lights in light poles throughout the village, which would be better for the environment and reduce costs. 

He proposed spending about $100,000 annually on the lighting program over the course of five years.

Separately, the board received a presentation from Oak Park Sustainability Coordinator Mindy Agnew on the rollout of its single-bag use fee, which charges shoppers 10 cents for single-use plastic and paper bags – the ordinance only applies to businesses with more than 5,000 square feet of store space.

Agnew said the village collected about $10,000 the first month of the bag fee, which represents about 200,000 bags purchased. Some have estimated that before the bag fee was put into place, Oak Park used about 7 million of the bags annually.

She said all the retailers subjected to the fee ordinance have reported that they’ve had to purchase fewer bags because people are starting to bring their own. 

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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