Residents and businesses in the City of Newark will get the option to purchase 100 percent renewable energy later this year.
Newark City Council recently approved a plan to offer its 12,700 electricity customers the choice to buy 100 percent renewable energy starting in June. Existing customers will need to opt in, but any new customers after June 1 will have to opt out.
City of Newark Finance Director David Del Grande estimates the program will cost the average residential customer an extra $5 to $8 a month. He says the City is hopeful that many customers will participate.
“We have about 1,000 new accounts that come on every year, most of those being our students,” Del Grande said. “Also, we have a large amount of commercial changes, we have a large amount of other residential changes. And just hearing from our residents over the years, they wanted this option to be available to them.”
The City of Newark, along with eight other municipal members of the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC), currently produces and purchases a mix of energy that’s nearly 20 percent from renewable sources. This is in alignment with the state’s yearly Renewable Portfolio Standards (DEMEC’s participation is voluntary, as only Delmarva Power is currently required to abide by these requirements).
The General Assembly recently voted to extend the Renewable Portfolio Standards to 40 percent by 2035, and DEMEC spokesperson Heather Contant says the not-for-profit plans to continue following the benchmarks.
The City of Newark set more ambitious goals through its Sustainable Newark Plan approved by City Council in fall 2019. Under the plan, the City will distribute at least 30 percent renewable electricity by 2025, 65 percent by 2035 and 100 percent no later than 2045.
Newark could meet those goals faster if enough customers, particularly large commercial ratepayers, opt into the 100 percent renewable program.
Newark's McKees Solar Park currently produces 230 kilowatts, or enough to power approximately 26 to 36 homes. That’s less than 20 percent of the municipal utility's total electricity load, Del Grande says, so DEMEC purchases renewable energy credits, or RECs, on the City’s behalf.
Del Grande says the City expects to generate five to six times its current renewable electricity production through several solar projects under development, including on the roof of the municipal building, the George Wilson Center, and at the Newark reservoir. But the City still expects to need to purchase RECs to meet its renewable energy goals even once those come online.
Hundreds of thousands of Delaware electricity customers already have the option to purchase 100 percent renewable energy through Delmarva Power and the Delaware Electric Cooperative (DEC).
DEC, which serves 105,000 members in central and southern Delaware, has offered residential customers the option to purchase community solar for an extra $10 per month for the past year. Commercial customers can purchase blocks of renewable energy.
Jeremy Tucker, manager of marketing and communications at DEC, says the program allows the cooperative to invest in future renewable energy production. DEC currently gets 7 percent of its energy portfolio from renewable sources.
Del Grande says Newark's 100 percent renewable option coming online in June will be good for electricity customers who want to reduce their carbon footprint, but can’t install their own solar—whether it's because they can’t afford it, they rent an apartment, or their roof doesn’t get enough sun.
“There’s no solar panels on the roof to worry about. There’s no maintenance that’s required,” he said. “All that stuff’s taken care of here by the City.”