The Saugerties Village Board voted 4-3 at its March 15 meeting to continue to study of a proposed Community Choice Aggregation plan that would, as described by its provider, Joule Energy, as offering electricity produced by “clean” methods at a lower price than the village residents now pay for power.
The savings are realized through Joule’s representing several municipalities, allowing it to bargain for lower prices for electricity produced by environmentally friendly methods. The trustees have expressed disagreement with the company’s policy of including all residents, unless they opt out, rather than having customers vote positively to opt into the plan.
At the April 5 meeting, however, Trustee Jeff Helmuth questioned the need to pass a local law to continue studying the proposal. “There are other services out there, community based; I’ve been on Clearway for two years. I understand there are some fly-by-night companies coming around, but that hasn’t been my experience. I get the credits on Central Hudson and one time I overpaid my bill and they credited me. They’ve just been wonderful.” On the other hand, Joule Energy is “throwing a net over the entire village, and I find that to be … also, as Alex pointed out, it may not be such a desirable thing to be involved with.”
Helmuth was referring to an earlier statement by the village’s special projects coordinator Alex Wade warning that the village residents could be hit with massive bills, similar to the Texas experience, if there were to be a massive power failure in the state. The proliferation of private power systems led to the Texas catastrophe, and it could do the same in the Northeast. However, Joule’s promotional presentations contrast its policy of not changing the price of electricity for the life of a contract with most power company’s policies of adjusting prices to supply costs regularly.
Trustee Donald Hackett, who had voted against continuing to study Joule Energy’s proposal, told Helmuth that while “you made some great points and I go with them, but unfortunately at the last meeting we had a vote — 4-3 — that we are going to go on with the process.”
Trustee Terry Parisian pointed out that the local law is an agreement to continue studying Joule’s proposal. It would take another local law to join the program. “It gives them the opportunity to explain their program across the board.”
Helmuth acknowledged that the board had received very positive reactions to the program from citizens, “those that were especially interested, but there will be more votes coming up, on this, so it would be hypocritical of me to vote no to going forward, and then yes on the law, for example.”
Trustee Jeannine Mayer reminded the board that they had requested that their attorney draw up a resolution for the board to continue the study of Joule’s proposal, and suggested they vote on it. “We are just allowing them to do the presentation and disseminate the information.
The board voted to hold a public hearing on the proposal at its next meeting on April 19.
Later in the meeting Trustee Vincent Buono asked whether Mayor Bill Murphy had contacted any of the towns that are receiving their power through Joule. Deputy Mayor Jeannine Mayer, who chaired the meeting in Murphy’s absence, said she is sure that Town Supervisor Fred Costello had contacted them, but she was not sure whether any village official had.
Buono said that if Murphy had not contacted them, “I will try to reach out to these other towns and find out how satisfied they are and if, in fact, it is costing them less than say, Central Hudson. I’ll check with Bill on that.”