Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Interview by: Chloe Vassot
Steve Dupee is the director of Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System (OMLPS), which is a community-owned electricity provider for Oberlin. Hes been a part of the organization for the past 22 years and has developed a passion for publicly owned power.
Q: What words or images would you use to describe Oberlin?
A: An image that comes to mind immediately is right here on my business card with wind turbines in the background, illustrating the communitys commitment to environmentally responsible power resources to meet our communitys electric needs with a focus on sustainability and carbon emission reduction.
Q: What does the word sustainability mean to you?
A: Using our resources most efficiently and wisely to preserve and maintain the health and welfare of our environment for future generations.
Q: What are the actions your organization is pursuing that relate directly to sustainability?
A: So over the past 6 years, OMLPS, with the support and direction of Oberlin City Council, has taken a very aggressive approach to transitioning the Citys power portfolio away from fossil fuels in favor of renewable and carbon neutral sources of power. The catalytic moment for developing and implementing this power supply strategy was during a community debate on whether or not the City should participate in a coal-fired generation project. The community spoke in one loud voice, and [said] that they wanted their local municipal electric system to begin transitioning away from fossil fuels to help address issues surrounding climate change. I think this conversation about energy and climate really helped us understand that in addition to reliable electric service and competitively priced power, the community believed environmental stewardship should be equally as important. That guidance has helped us make better decisions about our power portfolio and other services the community desires.
Q: Are there any specific parts of the Climate Action Plan that OMLPS has been working on?
A: The plan lays out specific greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for by 2015, 2030, and 2050 but also includes interim goals. Transition of the Citys power portfolio has been the most significant focus since the electricity sector accounts for 55% of all the community-wide greenhouse gas emissions in the city. Other efforts have included support for local development and construction of renewable generation including a partnership with Oberlin College to interconnect their 2-megawatt solar project to the Citys distribution system. Our first effort on the transportation front was the procurement and installation of the first city-owned electric vehicle charging station downtown behind old City Hall.
A more environmentally responsible way of living is going to be necessary if were going to be able to protect what we enjoy today.
Q: Does OMLPS see a big responsibility in relaying the importance of energy efficiency in peoples everyday lives, and how energy reduction is a big part of energy efficiency?
A: Yes. It is our duty and responsibility to help customers save energy costs and reduce inefficient energy use. Some people will ask me, Steve, dont you want to sell more power? No, we do not want to sell more power. Developing, constructing and operating large centralized power generation resources is very complex and challenging. Energy efficiency is much easier to implement and deliver with less environmental impact and greater cost savings to the customer. For OMLPS and our customers, energy efficiency must be the number one priority.
Q: What is your vision for Oberlin once the goals of the citys Climate Action Plan are met, or begin to be increasingly met?
A: To me I hope our plan can be replicated across the country. Oberlin cannot solve the problems of climate change on our own. I hope what we do here can be replicated in other communities, and lessons learned in Oberlin and can be applied elsewhere. A more environmentally responsible way of living is going to be necessary if were really going to be able to protect what we enjoy today.
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