Our thanks to Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy for permission to adapt their original article.
Community Choice Aggregation is now an option in six states. In essence, it’s a community-owned utility, and because it represents many thousands of customers, it can negotiate a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with an energy provider that is below the retail rate. Paul Fenn, the ‘inventor’ of CCAs, says they can usually deliver cost savings of around 15 to 20 percent.
But CCAs can deliver much more than low prices, they can also provide communities (municipalities) with an opportunity to build publicly-owned utilities that generate power locally, from renewable resources. Fenn says a successful CCA may generate more than 80 percent of its electricity locally, and reduce grid load by an equal amount.
There are two essential conditions that make a CCA feasible. First, municipalities must be permitted to access data on customer’s energy use from utility companies. This information is needed to negotiate a PPA, and it’s even more important if the CCA wants to design a successful locally-produced energy system. Second, CCAs must have an opt-out provision—in other words all consumers in the catchment area are automatically included in the CCA unless they actively decide not to join. Human nature being what it is, only five to ten percent of the public will opt into a CCA, but if customers must opt out, the CCA is likely to capture in excess of 80 percent of the local market.
There are no CCAs in New York yet, but that may be about to change. The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has taken up CCAs as a part of its Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, a major rethinking of how energy is generated and delivered in New York State, and a group called Citizens for Local Power is lining up municipal support for a CCA in Ulster County. Westchester County is expected to pilot a project this year. SASD is actively exploring the potential for a County-wide CCA for Sullivan County, and will continue to follow these developments with great interest.