- Smart Columbus announced this week its Smart Columbus Energy nonprofit initiative, designed to assist the decarbonization of corporate and industrial organizations in Central Ohio. The program has signed Cardinal Health, American Electric Power (AEP) and Huntington as its first participants.
- The program pools the energy demands of participating large buyers and enables them to procure energy from wind and solar power projects across Ohio through AEP Energy, a subsidiary of AEP.
- Smart Columbus estimates the initiative will supply approximately 25 megawatts (MW) of new wind and solar capacity to the three founding customers a year, which is the equivalent of powering 7,000 Ohio homes. The program has a potential to add 900 MW of renewable energy capacity and is available to other large energy buyers.
The three initial Smart Columbus Energy participants have big plans for their involvement in the initiative. AEP said it is purchasing energy for its headquarters in downtown Columbus and a lab in Groveport, OH, while Cardinal Health will use the program to power its global headquarters campus in Dublin, OH and one of its major Central Ohio distribution centers. Huntington, meanwhile, will power its Columbus facilities with renewable energy provided by the program.
This program comes as the Smart Columbus initiative — born of the city winning the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) inaugural Smart City Challenge in 2017 — continues to push a regional transition to clean energy. Columbus has experimented with self-driving shuttles and other mobility pilots, and also looked to encourage greater adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), all in a bid to reduce vehicle emissions.
This energy initiative is also driven by the sustainability demands of local companies, said Mark Patton, vice president of Smart Columbus at the Columbus Partnership.
"What we discovered was that the companies were interested in taking that next step, and also acting as a collective," Patton said. "We often talk about 'The Columbus Way,' but the spirit of the acceleration partner program was exactly that. If we all work together, we can move the region along further and faster as a unified front."
The program's launch comes on the heels of a public vote approving a Community Choice Aggregation initiative in a bid to run 100% renewable energy by 2023. In a statement released by Smart Columbus, Mayor Andrew Ginther said residents "made clear this November that they want their homes and businesses powered by renewable energy, and now our region's corporate community is joining them."
Revenues generated by Smart Columbus Energy will be reinvested into Smart Columbus initiatives to help fund projects designed to make the region more innovative, sustainable, equitable and connected. While there are few details on those slated projects, Patton said the reinvestment will help sustain Smart Columbus, which depends on grant funding and corporate support.
"As Smart Columbus played out, there was lots of interest in the community, both on the private and the public side to continue that," Patton said. "Of course, the question is, well, how would you sustain that? How do you fund that initiative? And this seemed like a great way to do that."