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New York’s First Community Choice Aggregation Program Moves Ahead

March 17, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

ConEdison Solutions, the competitive retail subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, announced on March 9 that it had won a $150 million contract to run a community aggregation program that will provide electricity at low rates – due to economies of scale – to 90,000 residential and small business customers in Westchester County, New York.

The contract was awarded by Sustainable Westchester and 17 of the 20 Westchester County municipalities that comprise Westchester Smart Power – which achieved a victory on February 25, when the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) gave them the go-ahead for the initiative.

Under community choice aggregation (CCA), each of the 17 municipalities now can opt either for  100 percent renewable energy supply, through Green-e certificates; or for a slightly lower-priced energy supply that includes a standard mix of traditional and renewable energy sources.

Sustainable Westchester describes itself as a nonprofit consortium of a total of 40 Westchester County local governments that facilitates effective sustainability initiatives. Westchester Smart Power is a nonprofit, community-based bulk energy purchasing program intended to lower costs and increase the use of renewable energy in Westchester County.

In 2015, Sustainable Westchester was selected by New York State to manage the first community choice aggregation pilot program under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy. Together, the state’s first consortium of local governments joined to create Westchester Smart Power, giving municipalities the ability to contract directly with energy suppliers, acting as a single buyer, in order to realize bulk discounts on retail rates and to choose power from clean, renewable sources.

“As the first community choice aggregation [program] in New York State, Westchester Smart Power holds the potential to transform how consumers purchase, use and choose the energy for their homes and businesses,” commented Richard Kauffman, chairman of Energy and Finance for New York State.

Municipalities that have joined the program include Bedford, Greenburgh, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, Larchmont, Lewisboro, Town of Mamaroneck, Village of Mamaroneck, Mt. Kisco, New Castle, New Rochelle, North Salem, Town of Ossining, Village of Ossining, Pelham, Pleasantville, Rye Brook, Somers, Tarrytown, and White Plains.

Small businesses or “small commercial customers” in the  participating Westchester County municipalities are eligible. A small commercial customer is defined as a business with peak electricity demand less than 10 kilowatts.

“Westchester Smart Power will give consumers the opportunity to source clean power at more competitive rates. Unprecedented access to our consumption information and a commitment to buy together have been critical in enabling smarter, more informed and more powerful choices,” said Sustainable Westchester Co-Chair Mike Gordon, adding, “As the program goes forward, consumers will also benefit from savings attributed to peak demand reductions, local renewable energy generation and energy efficiencies.”

Bedford 2020, a local environmental nonprofit organization, is partnering with Sustainable Westchester to spread the word about the opportunity to convert the county to renewable energy sources of generation. According to the group’s Co-President Ellen Rouse Conrad, “The choice to ‘opt up’ to 100 percent renewable energy is a game-changing opportunity for residents and small businesses in Westchester County. At long last, government has presented a viable solution for all consumers who care about clean energy, clean water and clean air.”

Westchester Smart Power is on target to launch in May. Those customers who already have rooftop or ground-mounted solar panels, automatically will be enrolled in Westchester Smart Power. Those who wish to opt out can use a form on the Westchester Smart Power site to do so.

The organization states, “If you do choose to opt out, remember that you can opt back into Westchester Smart Power anytime, though you may not still have access to the same low rate you get by staying.”

Community choice aggregation currently is available in six U.S. states: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and Rhode Island. New York will be the seventh. Over 5 million customers nationwide are served by a CCA program.

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