Sustainable Westchester Project Aimed at Lowering Utility Costs for Residents
| by Robert Kimmel |
Tarrytown and Irvington residents and small businesses may soon be able to participate in a project that will trim down their utility bills. Called Community Choice Aggregation, it will assemble the buying power of consumers within the Town Of Greenburgh to bypass Con Edison and collectively purchase natural gas and electricity from a single energy supplier, known as an ESCO.
Town Supervisor Paul Feiner called the arrangement “good news” and saw the prospect of individual utility bills going “down by $300 to $600” annually. He based the estimated savings “on experiences other communities around the country have had with similar programs.”
The Town Board agreed last month to participate in the program through Sustainable Westchester, the non-profit organization of energy advocates and municipalities in the County devoted to creating initiatives that sustain communities environmentally through cooperative projects. Residents in the unincorporated areas of the town now receiving their gas and electric supplies from Con Edison will be automatically placed in the program, unless they opt out. However, each Village Board must approve legislation to allow its community’s participation in the program. Those residents who already use an ESCO may remain with it, or choose to go with the Village’s single supplier. Con Edison would continue to deliver the gas and electric supplies through its infrastructure, read meters, send bills, and respond to service calls.
Feiner described the benefits of the program as, “Price stability for a fixed contract term, better terms than a typical resident could get acting alone, since we are purchasing in bulk, and the ability to design a program that reflects local goals like cleaner power sources. Currently, anyone can purchase their energy from an ESCO, but many ESCOs don’t provide fixed rates,” he said. “They offer ratepayers good deals initially, and then increase the rates a short time later. It’s confusing comparing the ESCOs, but Sustainable Westchester has the resources to Compare ESCOs and to get an agreement for a fixed term.”
The New York State Public Service Commission agreed last February to permit towns and cities in Westchester to buy their power collectively from entities other than the public utilities that have held that role for many years. It was a move sought by Sustainable Westchester, which had petitioned the PSC late last year to take that action.
The Boards of Trustees of both Irvington and Tarrytown are considering legislation that would bring the two villages into the pact with Sustainable Westchester. “The Board has expressed its desire to join in with the Community Choice Aggregation, and I expect a vote at the July meeting,” said Larry Schopfer, Irvington’s Administrator. Tarrytown Administrator Michael Blau said the legislation was placed on the agenda of a late June work session of that Village’s Board for discussion.
While there is no word that the Town of Mt Pleasant has been involved in the project at this time, Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray said he, “…would be interested in exploring the program, if it were.”
With the participating municipalities expected to be acknowledged by late summer, Sustainable Westchester will issue Requests For Proposals to selected ESCOs in September, according to Glenn Weinberg, a volunteer working on the program with the organization. The ESCO, which is awarded the contract, will be held to a fixed price level guaranteed to be less than the average utility price for the same commodity. Weinberg anticipates that the program could be operational this fall. He emphasized that utility users already with an ESCO have the option of remaining with that ESCO, or changing to the default one selected by Sustainable Westchester. ESCO contracts are most often for a given time period and include a fee charged to consumers who pull out of the contract prematurely. However, it is expected that users will be able to opt out of the Town’s program at any time.
Both residents and most small business owners will be eligible for the program. “The Town will schedule an informational meeting prior to the implementation of the program with representatives of the company,” Feiner stated.
An article about ESCOs and “Reforming the Energy Vision,” an initiative by the New York State Public Service Commission that offers municipalities the opportunity to pursue utility transactions that benefit consumers, can be found on our website, www.thehudsonindependent.com.