Since its launch in May, 2016, Westchester Power has reduced 660,000 megatons of CO2 in Con Edison and New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) territories. In 2019 Westchester Power has grown to 27 municipalities, accounting for over 100,000 Westchester electric customers and representing over 1/3 of the county residents. Member communities just recently signed on for a fixed rate for a one-year period. The upcoming contract will run from Dec. 1, 2020 through November 30, 2021.
A unique aspect of CCA in New York is the guiding role the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) continues to play in support of CCA growth. In its January 21, 2016 Order authorizing the Clean Energy Fund Framework in Case 14-M-0094 , they directed the Clean Energy Advisory Council (CEAC) to develop recommendations for incentives and/or other approaches that foster voluntary investments in clean energy technology that accelerate and increase achievement of the Clean Energy Standard and State Energy Plan (SEP).
The CEAC Working Group on CCA Policy report to the PSC noted beyond the above development that:
The report arrived at three conclusions (see below) and suggested numerous policy and non-policy recommendations to achieve these goals:
Among the policy discussions/recommendations were:
In 2014 New York State began a series of reforms that are referred to as Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). These programs are designed to benefit both the environment and the state’s economy by creating many small, local, clean power plants throughout New York and increasing the benefits of retail price competition for residential and business customers. The Order Instituting Proceeding and Soliciting Comments about CCAs was issued on December 15, 2014.
In February, 2015 the New York Public Service Commission approved the plans for creating the state’s first CCA, Westchester Power, to serve communities in Westchester County, a well-to-do region north of New York City. Westchester Power provides electricity to residents of participating communities at a price that is slightly below the prices offered by ConEd (the IOU for the southern part of the county) and NYSEG (the IOU for the northern part). Westchester Power offers its customers a choice of “basic supply” electricity or electricity that has been made 100% renewable through the purchase of Green-e certified RECs at a slightly higher price.
One unique feature of the New York electricity market is that IOUs are not allowed to offer stable electricity prices. Generation charges fluctuate monthly, and can range from as low as 3 cents/kWh to 15 cents/kWh. CCAs, on the other hand, can offer stable prices and can guarantee those rates for one or more years, depending on the duration of the supply contract they enter into.
Westchester Power serves twenty-one participating municipalities (see map). The 100,000 customer accounts in those communities represent 40% of the county’s population.
The creation of Westchester Power was the culmination of years of work by the non-profit community group Sustainable Westchester, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose members are 41 of the 44 municipalities in the county. Westchester Power is structured as a program of Sustainable Westchester, and is regulated by the New York PSC.
The Public Service Commission laid down the ground rules for all future CCAs in New York on April 21, 2016 when it issued an “Order Authorizing Framework for Community Choice Aggregation Opt-Out Program.” The order encourages formation of CCAs by individual cities, towns and villages or by groups of those municipalities. However, it forbids Counties from forming CCAs. In New York, a concept called “home rule” gives cities, towns and villages a kind of sovereignty that does not allow counties to make decisions that bind municipalities.
New York’s regulations make CCAs “opt out” for residences and small businesses, but “opt in” for large businesses and industrial accounts. They emphasize local renewables and distributed energy resources (DER), which are cornerstones of the Renewable Energy Vision.
On Aug. 1, 2016 Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the ambitious New York Clean Energy Standard (CES), a mandate to generate enough renewable power to meet half of the state’s power needs by the year 2030.
On Oct. 13, 2016 the PSC took steps to make it easier for communities to form CCAs by modifying its April 21, 2016 decision in Case 14-M-0224. This press release provides details, but in a nutshell the order requires greater sharing of customer information between incumbent utilities and CCAs and allows gradual roll-out of CCAs in large cities, such as New York, rather than requiring all residents and small businesses to be enrolled at the same time.
The provision for gradual roll-out in New York City was a huge win for CCAs in the state. Several NYC Community Boards, which are advisory groups but which have real power on local issues, are currently investigating forming community-scale CCAs within New York City.
MEGA (Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance)
CCA-Enabling Legislation: Governor’s Press Release
Bedford 2020 (Non-profit environmental group)
Citizens for Local Power (NY-based non-profit that promotes CCA and related energy programs)
Joule Assets (CCA administrator)
NY DPS CCA Proceeding Page (List of filings related to CCA, with links to the documents themselves)
NY Public Service Commission (The regulatory body for utilities)
Reforming the Energy Vision (New York’s comprehensive energy strategy to help consumers make more informed energy choices, develop new energy products and services and protect the environment while creating new jobs throughout the State.)
Renewable Highlands (Non-profit CCA organizer)
Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (Non-profit CCA organizer)
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (Non-profit CCA organizer)