Saugerties has long been considering joining a consortium called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) to reduce the cost of electricity for residents and provide energy from renewable sources. Now the town’s Climate Smart Committee is ready to make a recommendation, supervisor Fred Costello said at the regular town board meeting July 15. The committee recommended Joule Community Power to work with the town, “as we look into CCA for our residents,” he said.
Central Hudson would continue to deliver the energy as it does for customers of other providers.
The CCA system would benefit the town in two ways, Costello said. “We will get the benefit of their supply, which theoretically will be green, and the savings that come along with that.” In introducing Jeff Domanski of Hudson Valley Energy, the local representative of Joule Community Power. Costello said Joule, one of three that provides community choice aggregation, “has an impressive resume; especially in the Hudson Valley.”
Mary O’Donnell, chair of the Saugerties Conservation Advisory Commission, said the task force had been working for about a year to determine the best way to implement climate change action in the town..
CCA was established by New York State to create a mechanism for municipalities to provide energy on behalf of their residents, businesses and other organizations. Joule would provide all the energy from renewable sources, “with a focus on local energy sources and cost savings for residents and businesses.”
In the 1990s, New York State mandated competition in the production of electricity. Existing providers were limited to the delivery and billing services for the producers. “They own the poles and wires that get electricity to people’s houses; they own the meters on the houses; they do the billing and they have the fleet of repair service trucks that makes sure that power stays on,” said Domanski. Producers or organizations like Joule rely on the former monopolies to deliver it to customers; “we couldn’t operate without them,” Donaski said.
Through what amounts to a “buying club,” municipalities can bring the two benefits – lower prices and clean energy sources – together, Donaski said.
Individuals who choose not to participate can choose another supplier or have Central Hudson choose a supplier for them on a month-to-month basis, he said.
Hudson Valley Energy, Domansky’s company, leads the outreach, customer support and education for the program. So far, ten communities in the Hudson Valley have signed up for the program, he said: the City of Beacon, the Town of Clinton, the Village of Cold Spring, the Town of Fishkill, the Town of Marbletown, the town and village of New Paltz, the Town of Phillipstown, the City of Poughkeepsie and the Town of Red Hook.
Implementation, takes about ten months, including public comment, setting up contracts, approvals and processing of approvals and opt outs, Domanski said.
The last step before the program launches is informing eligible community members of the program details and their right to opt out, Donaski said. This is typically done by mailing the proposal to all eligible residents.
Justine Gauckler wanted to know how customers would be notified that they have been automatically added to the CCA system. Donaski said the local governments would notify eligible residents by mail. The notification would be in English and Spanish. Just before the switch happens, Central Hudson sends a letter to every affected customer.
Gauckler asked whether another method of contacting people – for instance those who don’t always read their mail from organizations – could be used. Donaski said he responds to requests from organizations to come and speak to their members as well as hosting community meetings.
The next step would be for the town to formally select Joule as its CCA administrator and begin a public outreach program. Donaski said Joule considers about 20,000 households to be a minimum to make the program work, with an upper limit of based on the number local suppliers could handle, but the numbers are flexible,.
Does Saugerties want to participate? Reaching out to the community to see whether the program would meet people’s needs is next, Costello said.