Brian Pugh: CCA=People Power!

10-27-2016-bp-fb-lte-imageTo the Editor:

Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) allows local governments to secure energy supply service for electric customers in the community. These customers can choose to opt out of the program. Regardless of the “supplier”, Con Edison remains responsible for maintaining transmission and distribution service.

In Westchester, CCA is run by a nonprofit consortium of local governments called Sustainable Westchester. The Sustainable Westchester CCA secured a fixed rate for electrical power below the 2015 Con Edison average price for communities that chose the “standard” CCA option or the 100% renewable option.

Anyone who is at all concerned about climate change should be in support of CCA. How often does one have a chance to receive renewable energy on such favorable terms?

Despite the compelling logic of leveraging a community’s market power to secure affordable, renewable electricity through competitive bidding, some, including my Croton United opponents, have been vocal in their opposition to CCA. Their chief objections, though, are unfounded.

In a recent letter to the Gazette, a Croton United Trustee candidate asserted that the savings under CCA were minimal. However, Con Edison reported to the Public Service Commission that CCA customers have saved an average of $10/month in the CCA program launched earlier this year by Sustainable Westchester.

For someone that lives in a $1M+ home, that may seem immaterial. But for others living in our community, those savings add up. And as Trustees, we must consider the interests of all residents.

Critics also claim that CCA denies customers choice. Again, the opposite is true. In participating communities, customers can get their electric supply from the CCA supplier or they can quit the CCA program and receive their power from the standard Con Edison arrangement. When communities don’t participate in CCA, their residents don’t have this option.

The claim that electric customers in non-CCA communities can always choose their own supplier is technically true, but misses the point. New York’s deregulated electric market is notorious for predatory behavior. Per one recent study by the AARP, on average, energy supply companies charged 14% more than utility companies in New York.

Without the market power of CCA on their side, consumers on their own cannot secure as good a deal. A customer today looking to get a 12-month fixed rate contract from Con Ed Solutions would have to pay 8.75 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). In contrast, CCA customers in the Con Ed service area pay7.38 cents per kWh for the “standard” CCA option and 7.68 cents per kWh for 100% renewable power.

Claims by Croton United that not enough outreach was done by the Village regarding CCA is just political posturing. Could more have been done to educate the public about CCA? Absolutely. But if that’s the case, why hasn’t Croton United done any since taking power in December 2015? Why did Mayor Dr. Schmidt reject an outreach plan that I shared with the Board, even though the other two Croton United trustees were supportive of it (but suddenly fell silent when the Mayor made his opposition clear)?

With the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicting higher electricity rates going in to 2017, the savings from Community Choice Aggregation will likely only increase over time. And as the evidence of climate change becomes ever clearer, the case for securing affordable renewable power from CCA also strengthens. As a Village Trustee, I will continue to advocate for our community’s participation in CCA.

Sincerely,

 

Brian Pugh

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