| by Robert Kimmel |
Tarrytown has joined Irvington and many other Westchester municipalities to participate in Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), a program aimed at lowering utility costs and promoting greater use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. If all goes as planned, more than 100,000 homes and numerous small businesses in the county will get their gas and electricity provided through the program beginning in January 2016.
Community Choice Aggregation will select energy service companies (ESCOs) to supply either gas or electricity supplies, or both, to most all of the homes and small businesses in a municipality at a fixed rate lower than what Con Edison charges. Con Edison will continue to deliver the supplies through its infrastructure and handle emergency calls and service repairs. While the program will offer cost advantages, consumers may opt out of it if they choose.
The project is being implemented by Sustainable Westchester, the non-profit organization made up of 40 communities in the county. Its request to begin a CCA demonstration program involving its member municipalities was granted by New York’s Public Service Commission in February, making it, thus far, the only CCA program authorized to operate in the state. New York is the seventh state to implement a CCA project, following California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
More than five million customers nationwide obtain their gas or electricity through CCA programs. The volume of supplies to consumers bundled into the programs provide the clout to secure better rates and arrangements from the default energy sources.
Tarrytown’s Board of Trustees adopted a village code amendment and then passed
take part in the CCA program. It retains the authority to agree, or not, as to whether the ESCO contract established by Sustainable Westchester for all participating municipalities collectively is compliant with its criteria.
“It is a totally transparent process,” said Glenn Weinberg, a volunteer with Sustainable Westchester, actively involved in the project. He said that the villages will have an opportunity to review and comment on the request for proposals going out to ESCOs.
“Community Choice Aggregation is a great opportunity for residents to save on their utility bills and also help the environment,” Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell commented. He pointed out that, if they wish, residents will likely be able to procure supplies from an ESCO selected by Sustainable Westchester, which supplies a “green product,” totally from renewable energy sources.
Sleepy Hollow was alerted to details of the CCA, but has not yet acted to join the program. Irvington and the Town of Greenburgh approved their participation in August. The requests for proposals to ESCOs are expected to be sent out this month, following an expected endorsement of the program by White Plains, according to Weinberg.
Sustainable Westchester states that it “…intends to solicit bids that offer at least three different energy supply options.” The initial bid will call for a default rate that can save consumers money. Next would be for a fixed rate for an energy supply. The third would be for the “…green product that is up to 100% carbon free and derived from renewable energy sources.” The renewable supply is expected to cost “slightly higher than the default rate.” Sustainable Westchester notes that, “Each individual household or business will be able to choose which rate they want to buy, the default, fixed or carbon-free rate.”
Customers now receiving their supplies from Con Edison would be enrolled in the CCA program, making their selection from among the three choices. However, they will also have a 20-day period to opt out. Those residents or businesses already with an ESCO could terminate their contract with that ESCO and join in the CCA program. Con Edison will continue to bill customers for delivery, and include the ESCO charges within their billing.
Letters will go out to all eligible residents and small businesses prior to its implementation fully explaining the CCA program in detail. A website is also being established through which information will be available and queries answered.