Community Power On Bulk Buy: Pushing New York State Towards Cleaner Energy

By: Morgan Block

This last Thursday, October 13th, the State Public Service Commission (PSC) allowed for large cities, like New York City, to implement community power purchasing arrangements! Additionally, The Public Service Commission updated its Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program to allow municipalities to purchase power, like electricity, for residents and businesses in bulk. By bringing environmental groups, homeowners, and municipal officials together to make bulk purchases of renewable energy resources, the CCA keeps New York on track to becoming a more environmentally friendly state. The program helps to switch New York State’s energy system from one of burning fossil fuels to one of utilizing cleaner, more renewable, energy. The CCA is a system for municipalities to figure out ways to generate their electricity to meet the needs of different communities.

Importantly, the CCA aids in the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) campaign towards achieving its renewable energy goals of 50% renewable energy by the year 2030. This program helps the state buy power in a more environmentally friendly way, furthering the vital targets set out by the REV. In Westchester County, New York State initiated a pilot CCA program, the Sustainable Westchester Program, on May 1st of this year, and served nearly 90,000 residents and businesses. At the start of the CCA, it was estimated that the average customer would save around five to eight percent on their monthly bill through the Sustainable Westchester Program. So far, the Sustainable Westchester Program was found to reduce customer’s electric bills by about $10 each month.

However, some are cautious about the full implementation of the program. The Commissioner of the PSC, Diane Burman, has cautioned rolling out the CCA as a statewide program before more adequate information is released about the Westchester Pilot Program. Commissioner Burman has opposed the idea to allow large municipalities to purchase energy in bulk since the proposals inception, although she does support the concept of the CCA. Commissioner Burman cites the lack of testing on such a large initiative as why she believes we must be more cautious. In order to fully implement the CCA on a large scale, Commissioner Burman believes NY should first look at examples of other states. Other communities, like Scarsdale, have too raised questions on the viability of the Sustainable Westchester Program.

The CCA contains an opt-out clause allowing customers who do not wish to participate in the program a way to withdraw from the program. Recently, a utility requested to switch the CCA to become an opt-in program where customers must sign up for the program as opposed to the opt-out ability. But, despite the request, the CCA Commission rejected this idea because it would hinder the overall progress of the program.