Our country has come a long way since the first Earth Day in 1970. When I was a young child, my mother would save our newspapers all year round, in neatly stacked paper bags in the garage, to be picked up by the Boy Scouts for their annual recycling drive. Now we put our newspapers out at the curbside every week (or read them digitally, avoiding any use of paper). Curbside recycling represents a change in our waste management system and makes environmental responsibility easier for all residents, not only those who are willing to have their garage gradually taken over every year by stacks of newspapers.
Similarly, communities around our nation are looking for ways to make green energy easier to access for all residents. A new option here in New York is Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). To understand CCA, the first thing to know is that there are two parts to your energy bill. First, you pay for the energy to be purchased. Second, you pay for the energy to be delivered. The default in our region is that RG&E does both of those tasks, unless you as a resident or business owner decide to purchase your energy from another source such as a community solar project or an energy service company (ESCO).
Instead of using the default energy purchaser designated by the state, CCA lets a town designate its own default energy source. By doing this as a town, we can aggregate our buying power to obtain energy at a more affordable rate. One of the most important choices a community makes through CCA is what kind of energy they want to purchase. Although CCA does not have to be a green energy initiative, it can be used to set the default for 100% renewable energy.
The pilot program for CCA in New York was in Westchester County where 20 municipalities adopted CCA and 14 of those adopted a 100% renewable option. To date, those communities have seen a combined $6 million of savings. So far, more than 60 municipalities in New York have passed legislation authorizing a CCA.
If a town forms a CCA, homeowners and business owners can opt-out at any time and at no cost. If you want to stick with RG&E, community solar, or an ESCO, you can do so. Opting out allows for individual choice as well as community choice. Regardless of whether you participate in the CCA or not, the energy distribution will still be handled by RG&E. They own the lines, transformers, etc., and so will still be company that is responsible for maintenance and service.
The Town of Pittsford is considering forming a CCA. This requires two steps. First, the Town must enact a local law that enables us to form a CCA. That will necessitate a public hearing. The law does not commit or require the town to form a CCA, it merely allows us to do so if we wish. Second, after the law is passed the Town must choose how they are going to administer the program. At this time, the Town Board is exploring two companies who are both approved by New York State’s Public Services Commission.
CCA is intended to be for the good of the community and to reflect the values and desires of its residents. Therefore, we need to hear from you. Do you want a CCA in the Town of Pittsford? If so, what kind of energy do you want us to purchase? How important is it that the contract support the development of renewable infrastructure jobs and infrastructure in New York? Let us know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or contacting your Town Board members directly through their emails available on the town’s website at http://www.townofpittsford.org/townboard.