A proposal to try to find a new energy supplier to replace Columbia Energy passed 3-2 at the Saugerties Town Board’s regular meeting on November 16. Columbia dropped its contractual commitment to provide electricity at a fixed price. The contract is now in litigation with Joule Energy, the company that organized the ten-municipality group suing Columbia.
Specifically, the motion was for the town to agree to an arrangement for the ten participating municipalities to pay the fees for litigants in a suit against Columbia. Joule Energy is suing Columbia for its breach of the contract with the municipalities.
The towns are considering finding another supplier and beginning the process of aggregating their energy supplier to bargain for a lower fixed price through Joule again.
“Saugerties partnered with ten other communities and we aggregated folks who did not secure an energy contract or an energy hedge, and we created a buying bloc; we created the hedge,” Saugerties Supervisor Fred Costello said. While the idea of the cooperative purchase confused some residents, it was very successful in protecting its member communities from the wild spikes in electricity cost over the past year. The withdrawal of the company that was supposed to supply the power has left some residents cautious about trying to continue the program.
“During the period the CCA [Community Choice Aggregation] program was in place, the people who were part of it saved more than $8 million,” Costello said. “That’s a significant saving. Even though the company we contracted with [Columbia] did not fulfill the balance of their contract, I think it’s worthwhile to partner with the same group and go back into the energy market and secure a new contract for a period in the near future.”
At this point, the company that has represented the consortium of towns, villages and two cities, Joule Energy, will be seeking another vendor. If the Town Board feels confident that this vendor can supply electricity at a saving over going through Central Hudson, which would assign an electricity supplier, then the town would again contract for electricity.
“We are still in litigation with Columbia, who is the vendor, the Energy Supply Company [ESCO] that was awarded the bid. I want to remind folks that this creates a third option. If you don’t pick an energy supply company, one is picked for you. They go into the energy market, they find a supplier they feel will give us a reasonable cost as consumers because Central Hudson is prohibited from generating its own electricity.”
Consumers can insulate themselves from the fluctuations in energy prices by getting together and securing their own contract with an energy supply company, and many residents do that and certainly large consumers of energy do that, Costello said. “As you become a smaller consumer of energy, it’s harder for residents to do that [negotiate energy prices]. “This program creates a catchall opportunity. If you opt out, you can get your own energy supply company, or you can default to the Central Hudson provider.”
The program does not require a long-term contract, so residents can decide to stay with the program or leave it at every billing cycle, Costello said.
Councilmen Michael Ivino and Zach Horton voted against the proposal, which passed 3-2.