Tapping into community solar is going to be happening automatically for most New Paltz residents in the coming months. It will be shifted from an opt-in to an opt-out program once those charges can be included as part of the Central Hudson bill. As of now, signing up for community solar means that a credit appears on the Central Hudson bill and the customer then has to pay a separate bill from the community solar provider, which is for ten percent less than the credit. Come April, anyone with a community solar account will just have the discounted electricity price on that one invoice.
Community solar is integrated into Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), the mouthful of words that means that anyone in New Paltz is getting 100% renewably-generated electricity, unless they have chosen not to. A group rate is negotiated through something of a power broker and that agreement replaces the default option of being sold electricity that’s purchased on the open market. Being part of the CCA program doesn’t prevent anyone from also signing up for community solar, which is generated at solar facilities and sold to people who don’t have their own panels. The expectation is that participating will also lower one’s electricity bills.
Saving money is also an expectation for participating in a CCA program, but it didn’t quite work out that way in New Paltz during this first two-year contract with administrator Joule Community Power. Even sourcing all the power from renewable forms, the price was expected to be a bit of savings over what’s on the spot market, but no one bargained for a pandemic. Fossil fuel prices slipped to rock-bottom lows, leaving participants with the satisfaction that they were paying about $5.50 a month more to good for the planet by averting 14,412 CO2-equivalent tons in New Paltz alone. Only about ten percent of participants opted out over time, and when the rates are renegotiated in July, those lower prices will be reflected on the bills. The ten-percent savings seen by participating in community solar can be opted into at any time, but it can take a couple of months to bring a new account into that system.