by Tom Ellis
ALBANY, NY: Tina Lieberman and Susan Lawrence spoke at the June 20 SPB dinner about the power and potential of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). Tina is a member of the Energy Subcommittee of the Albany City Sustainability Advisory Committee. Susan is on the Executive Committees of both the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and the local Hudson Mohawk Group.
Tina said CCA is similar to Sam’s Club and other bulk purchasing discount clubs with electricity the product. She said in 2016 the NYS Public Service commission (PSC) authorized municipalities to bulk purchase electricity and negotiate for discounts. A municipality that chooses CCA could select the type of electricity it desires and might choose to purchase hydroelectricity, wind, and solar power, and stimulate demand for those electricity resources.
She said the electricity bill of a National Grid customer has two main charges: one for the delivery of electricity by National Grid and one for the supply of electricity that is offered by any one of hundreds of energy supply companies (ESCOs). If a municipality selects to participate in CCA, customers would get one electricity bill – with possibly an extra one if they signed up for Community Solar.
With municipal CCA, residential and small businesses would be automatically enrolled with the choice to opt-out. Larger businesses and not-for-profits would have to opt-in if they want to participate.
Among the benefits of CCA Tina identified are: reduced electricity bills of 5-10 percent, a stable electricity rate could be locked in, reduced greenhouse emissions for our community, stimulation of the renewable electricity industry, improved access to state grant programs, new local jobs if new local renewables are built to supply the CCA, protection of residents from predatory electricity suppliers, and any resident or business could opt-out.
Tins used a PowerPoint showing how solar photo-voltaics prices are continuing to steadily decline. She said a Capital District CCA steering committee has held four meetings and is looking for new, interested members.
She said a municipality could choose CCA and then select fossil fuels, something she would oppose. A CCA participating municipality would usually hire an administrator or broker to make the electricity purchases or could choose to do so themselves.
She said CCA suppliers want a minimum of 40,000 households, which Albany has. Niskayuna is also looking into CCA
as are other local municipalities. Several or many municipalities, some large and small in size, could join the same CCA, increasing the total number of customers and enhancing the CCA’s ability to negotiate the lowest possible prices.
During the questions and comments, I said that people should be careful when promoting hydroelectric development because not all of it is good. When pipes are carved into rocks alongside a waterfall and some of the river diverted through the pipes and turbines to generate electricity, such as at Niagara Falls, this is generally viewed as positive and renewable electricity.
However, in Quebec and Labrador the provincially-owned power companies often utilize a destructive hydro model. Many miles of dikes are constructed along river valleys with dams and power stations constructed at the bottom of the valley, The river valleys gradually fill up creating giant reservoirs. Rotting vegetation in the flooded valleys release methane into the water and air. The inundated rocks and soil release methyl mercury into the water, poisoning it along with fish, animals, and people who drink the water.
This electricity is pumped into the Canadian electricity grid which flows south and west into New England and New York where it is falsely marketed and sold as clean, safe, and renewable electricity. Rivers in Quebec and Labrador are literally being destroyed to supply electricity to the United States. Two years ago, Jim Learning of the Labrador Land Protectors spoke at a SPB dinner about how destructive hydroelectricity in Labrador is.
Tina said that currently local hydroelectricity suppliers are getting very low rates from National Grid and are looking to CCA because it would increase demand for their electricity allowing them to negotiate higher prices, while we buyers would pay less than we do now.
Tina said Albany Common Councilwoman Cathy Fahey is sponsoring legislation to have Albany explore CCA options.
Mark Schaeffer said he pays a premium to National Grid for renewable electricity and national Grid buys renewables to meet Mark’s demand.
Tina said Weschester County has a residential CCA which also allows their residents to get better prices on bulk purchases of other items such as electric vehicles. She said 65 NYS communities have enacted CCA laws and many others are interested in joining with larger partners because they are too small to benefit on their own.
She said years ago Albany locked in a long term electricity rate for electricity the city uses at a high price and loses money each month because fossil fuel electricity rates have decreased since the city signed the contract.
Chris Kielb said the town of Colonie recently signed on to Climate Smart Communities and the town may be interested in CCA. Tina said Glens Falls is interested too.
If interested in furthering CCA, Tina said people can join the steering committee and organize community meetings, lobby municipalities, or be a supporter and spread the word. She invites people to get more information by contacting her at email@example.com.
Lynne Jackson said she sees no downside to CCA and recommends we support it.
Tina said if enough NYS communities go with CCA renewables, we could transform where we get our electricity from in a very powerful way.
Published in August-September 2018 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter