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Columbus Council Takes Up Clean Energy Initiative

solar panals
Carl Attard

Columbus City Council on Monday gets its first chance to discuss a citizen-led clean energy initiative looking to set aside nearly $60 million in city money.

Under the proposed ordinance, Columbus would move $42 million from the general fund into a pot earmarked for subsidies to electric customers who choose providers that use renewable sources.

That money would be managed by an outside organization selected by the initiative's backers. One possibility is the New York Green Bank.

The measure would also create three $5 million funds for energy conservation, green energy education and training programs, and minority business development in clean energy. 

John Clarke from the Columbus Clean Energy Initiative says local officials would oversee the funds and determine how the dollars will be spent. He suggests incentives for purchasing energy efficient appliances or scholarships for green job training as potential options.

“It’s already something that you can do, the subsidy is to encourage you to choose a provider that produces their power using wind or solar,” Clark told WOSU last week.

City leaders expressed skepticism about the possible ballot issue nearly immediately after supporters submitted petition signatures. 

“The City will review the potential impacts of this plan in the coming weeks, but also must advance it as required by the Charter for petitions," read a statement from Mayor Andrew Ginther's office. "That said, Council is concerned about any proposal to divert tens of millions of dollars away from City services to an unknown entity with limited public oversight.”

Council can either vote to approve the initiative, or put it before voters in November.