By Robert Kimmel —
An overwhelming majority of residents and small businesses in the rivertowns of Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, Irvington and Dobbs Ferry are continuing to select renewable, clean energy as a source of their electric power.
The four villages are among the county’s 27 municipalities which have maintained enrollment in Westchester Power’s community program aimed at reducing the emission of fossil fuel-generated carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. It is administered by Sustainable Westchester, a nonprofit organization whose goal is described as “bringing renewable energy electricity to county residents at an affordable price.”
Local residents and small businesses received letters last month outlining new contract rates Westchester Power had negotiated with the power supplier, Constellation, New Energy, Inc. to begin January 1, 2021. Consumers were given two options: the 100% renewable option, or the standard option whereby their electricity source would consist of “a mixture of fossil fuels, nuclear, and some use of renewable energy.”
Each of the Villages have set the 100 % renewable option as the default, meaning that users are required to opt out of that selection and chose the standard if they so decide. Consumers were asked to return a postcard by December 23, or contact Sustainable Westchester at any time, to opt out, but early indications are only a small minority will do so.
For the past four years, opt-outs were relatively few in number compared with total eligible households and small businesses in each municipality. Westchester Power represents more than 100,000 customers. Tarrytown and Irvington have been signed in with Westchester Power since it began the program in 2016, while Sleepy Hollow and Dobbs Ferry joined in 2019.
In 2016, 167 electricity consumers in Tarrytown dropped out of the program, but during the following year, 159 joined the renewable energy program. In 2018, 72 opted out, while 48 were added last year. During 2016, Irvington residents who chose standard energy numbered 85, and 75 re-joined the renewable plan in 2017. The village had 41 dropouts in 2018, and 128 in 2019. When Sleepy Hollow linked with Westchester Power in 2019, 243 consumers pulled away from the renewable program, and 241 did likewise in Dobbs Ferry.
“By purchasing electricity as a group, we have been able to provide more than 115,000 County residents and small businesses with low-cost, fixed rates for electricity supply since 2016,” Westchester Power asserts. ‘It’s made a positive impact – providing clean renewable energy, offsetting CO2 emissions, and building a healthier, more resilient community.”
“This latest renewal of the Westchester Power program contracts demonstrates our municipal members’ resolve to stay focused on the critical long-term goal of moving to a clean energy future,” stated its Director, Dan Welsh. “We, at Sustainable Westchester, take inspiration from this and are determined to fulfill the promise and potential of this community energy approach by continuing to build and enhance our programming,” he added. “In fact, to date, the Westchester Power program has reduced CO2 emissions by 660,000 metric tons Countywide, equivalent to taking 142,600 cars off the road for one year.”
Up to June of this year, Tarrytown accounted for more than 16,000 metric tons of that CO2 reduction since its entry into the program in June 2016. In that same period, Irvington eliminated over 13,000 tons. Dobbs Ferry’s shorter term, from April 2019 resulted in reducing emissions by greater than 6,000 metric tons, while Sleepy Hollow follows with more than 4,000 metric tons saved.
Under the new contract, residents choosing the renewable, green energy supply, are to pay 7.405 cents per kilowatt, hour, (kWh), consumed, as compared to those opting out for the standard supply who will pay 6.749 cents per kWh. Assuming each used 500 kWh during one month, the green supply cost would be $37.03, as opposed to the standard supply charge, $33.75. In addition to supply charges, monthly costs include billing from ConEdison which delivers the electric power, maintains the system, and provides other customer related services.
While small businesses are paying the same as residential rates in the current contract, they will be paying slightly lower rates in the new contract as of January 1. Westchester Power explains that “market conditions, whereby suppliers have been decreasing the average price for small commercial accounts since 2019” account for the decrease. Another factor is reduced demand in the commercial sector since the beginning of the pandemic.
The actual electric power supply fed into the delivery grid in New York State comes from different sources. The percentage of green, renewable power within it that is used by municipalities is matched with New York State Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which account for the amount of hydropower provided in the total grid supply.
Sustainable Westchester’s pursuit of non-fossil cleaner energy is taking other forms as well. “The success of the Westchester Power program has laid the foundation for other first-of-its kind programs, including our leading-edge residential demand response program, Grid Rewards, which is already delivering savings to participating residents,” says Dan Welsh. “We’re looking forward to an exciting 2021 where all of this programming will become even more integrated and accessible as evident with our Community Solar program, which also offers savings to residents.”