Gainesville Regional Utilities is about to close a deal with Gainesville Renewable Energy Center to purchase the facility for $750 million. Currently GRU and the City of Gainesville is locked into a contract with the biomass GREC facility to the tune of $70 million a year. The contract would last the next 27 years and cost Gainesville approximately $2.1 billion dollars during that time. However, despite the contract GRU has been getting power from cheaper sources and has been mostly sidelining the biomass plant, leading to this deal. GRU hopes to use the facility to replace decommissioned plants and avoid paying for power it doesn’t use.
After both sides agreed to the deal, it has now gone to the Utility Advisory Board and the city commission, which hasn’t ultimately agreed to the deal yet either. Concerns over the price tag the city would muster, as well as the time frame being imposed on city commissioners to consider the deal are factors. After the deal was finalized, the city commission is now being asked to look over and sign the resulting memorandum of understanding by April 21st, which at this point is less than a month away.
GRU has repeatedly released statements justifying both the purchase and conditions attached. GRU has claimed that the buyout could save Gainesville $650 million dollars over the next 30 years, and that everyday the deal is not finalized costs the city $70 thousand in fees to GREC. Gainesville citizens have been told by GRU that the buyout will also reduce customer bills by 8 to 10 percent.
Commissioners Harvey Budd and Todd Chase have each indicated misgivings they have towards signing the memorandum. Todd Chase will no longer be in office after the deadline GRU is attempting to set on the City Commission and will not be able to sign any contracts or ordinances regarding the buyout after April 20th. Mayor Lauren Poe continues to support the deal and attempted to get City Commission to vote on the deal Thursday, April 6th.
Regardless of the outcome, Gainesville residents are upset at being forced into this predicament in the first place.