Communities throughout the Hudson Valley have begun signing on to Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) agreements, which set the default electricity rates and source for municipal customers who opt in. Increasingly, these programs use renewable energy, allowing climate-conscious consumers to help the environment without adding solar panels to their own properties. A CCA allows communities to pool electricity demand by leveraging their collective buying power in an effort to secure energy rates that are both competitively priced and contractually stable.
Participating municipalities as of May 2021 includes the City of Beacon, Town of Clinton, Village of Cold Spring, Town of Fishkill, Town of Marbletown, Town of New Paltz, Village of New Paltz, Town of Philipstown, City of Poughkeepsie, and Town of Red Hook. On July 1, Saugerties and Rhinebeck are among four more municipalities planning to join the CCA, which uses solar energy.
Hudson Valley Community Power (HVCP) is the program manager of a CCA partnership between itself and program administrator Joule Community Power. “There’s just this beautiful design in the program,” said an enthusiastic Jeff Domanski, principal of Hudson Valley Energy. “By creating a virtual commercial entity out of all of these small customers within a community, you reverse their leverage within the marketplace and just using the existing market. You can actually have your cake and eat it, too. You can support renewables at a very cost-competitive rate that’s fixed, and it can be better than the price of non-renewables. It’s totally turned around the way that people think about renewables just by utilizing existing capitalistic markets.”
Doing the math
The Village of New Paltz’s new CCA agreement recently locked in participating consumer rates at 6.573 cents per kilowatt-hour, up slightly from their CCA’s current rate of 6.361 cents. Central Hudson’s rates fluctuate based on market trends: Their standard rate as of May 12 was 4.417 cents per kilowatt-hour, down from 6.739 cents on April 13, and 9.525 cents on March 12. But since the term for CCA is typically one year, the more appropriate comparison would be to Central Hudson’s twelve-month average, which was 5.357 cents per kilowatt/hour for the term ending May 12.
In that case, the CCA rate turned out to be higher than the regular Central Hudson rate. But had market conditions gone another way, then the non-CCA rate might have spiked while the CCA rate would have been stable. Beyond the easy access to renewable energy, this stability is the program’s chief selling point.
“HVCP provides a fixed rate, while Central Hudson rates are variable monthly and move up or down with the underlying wholesale markets,” said Sherry Rothenberg, vice-president of marketing with Joule. “Therefore, over any particular period, it is difficult to accurately predict price performance. What we can say is that we are confident we have secured very low fixed rates for both renewable and standard supply options that will provide great value to customers.”
Easy access to renewables
Domanski said that a CCA might never have occurred to some propertyowners before. He’s compared it to the Costco membership model, where members collectively keep prices low. “It’s the idea of kind of equity empowerment from this for a lot of homeowners who wouldn’t even think about it, that they are empowered to be part of it, which I think is no small thing at all,” he said. “I call it decision-making justice. This idea that people are so burdened and for a handful of reasons they don’t think about this, or they don’t want to think about it, or they just can’t because they have too many other things to think about.”
With Saugerties on the verge of joining the CCA, preparations are under way to let the community know the advantages of staying with the program as opposed to opting out. Said Mary O’Donnell, chair of the Saugerties Conservation Advisory Commission and coordinator for the Saugerties Climate Smart Task Force, “The Town of Saugerties has been really very forward-looking in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly for town buildings. So the more renewable energy that we can use, not only within the town government, but throughout the community, the more greenhouse gas emissions will definitely go down, and that’s all tied into addressing global warming and the whole climate crisis.”
Homeowners are able to opt out at any time. “The program provides a robust layer of customer protection,” Rothenberg said. “We are able to dictate the terms of the deal, and customers never have to sign a contract or commit for any period of time. Customers are free to opt out or exit the program at any time, for any reason, without penalty.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the program, visit hudsonvalleycommunitypower.com or call 859-9099.