|by Robert Kimmel |
Sustainable Westchester Inc. is currently running on schedule for the project aimed at bringing lower utility rates to consumers in many municipalities in the county, including Tarrytown and Irvington. The project, Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), contracts with one or more default power suppliers for all residents and small businesses that will set gas and electric rates lower than what utility companies now charge. Utilities, such as Con Edison, would continue to deliver the supplies through its infrastructure.
Response last month from interested energy service companies, (ESCOs), relating to their being chosen for the project has been “good,” according to Leo Wiegman, Executive Director of Sustainable Westchester. Twenty-two communities in the county, with Tarrytown and Irvington among them, have passed local legislation that enables their participation in the program. Four more were expected to join by the end of last month.
Wiegman said the schedule, “…should enable our residents and small businesses to be enrolled in the program by January 1, 2016.” However, he called the timing “a little aggressive,” and indicated there could be a delay, if the process slows. “We aim to seek bids between the second and fourth week of November, making a recommendation on an energy supplier with the most compliant bid by late November,” he added.
Wiegman stated that Sustainable Westchester is circulating a Program Management Agreement that broadly reaffirms to participating municipalities their enrollment in the program. A draft Energy Services Agreement that allows those communities to review the terms included in the Energy Procurement Request for Proposals from the interested ESCO will follow that, Wiegman said.
As part of the procedure, New York’s Public Service Commission will be requesting information from existing utility companies, such as ConEdison, for details on the amount of gas and electricity they provide to each community so aggregate totals can be calculated for use in Sustainable Westchester’s soliciting proposals from the ESCOs.
One or more ESCOs will be chosen by Sustainable Westchester, with approval by the involved municipalities, to provide either gas or electric supplies, or both to all residences and small businesses within a municipality now served by ConEdison, unless those individual customers actively opt out of the arrangement. Consumers who are now served by an ESCO may remain with it, or elect to enlist with the CCA selected ESCO. Officials caution that consumers now using ESCOs should check their contracts to determine if they would be charged a penalty fee for ending those contracts.
Sustainable Westchester’s program is based on selected ESCOs offering lower rates because of the huge volume of gas and electricity that they would be supplying throughout the county through Community Choice Aggregation. Sustainable Westchester’s initiative is also directed at increasing the use of renewable energy, “carbon free” sources such as solar and wind. Consumers would be given a choice to select the ESCO that would be offering supplies from those sources, at a somewhat higher rate, according to Glenn Weinberg, a volunteer heavily involved with Sustainable Westchester’s project.
Weinberg also said that consumers will be able to choose a “default” rate that could slide up or down, based on commodity supplies, or a fixed rate for their energy. Weinberg notes that programs in other states, where CCA has been established, have resulted in consumers saving annually from 10 to 14 percent on their gas and electricity bills.
ConEdison, in addition to delivering the supplies, will continue to handle all repairs, respond to emergency calls, and bill for both its services and the ESCOs.
Sustainable Westchester is a non-profit consisting of 40 communities in the county. The state’s Public Service Commission gave approval last February to the organization’s request to establish a Community Aggregation demonstration program for its members. So far it is the only such program operating in New York, which is among seven states that have implemented a CCA project. Each municipality will communicate to residents details of the program before it begins.