New York has one of the most ambitious renewable energy visions of any state. Several years after the establishment of New York’s first CCA, Westchester Power, CCA is doing well and continuing to grow.
Since its launch in May, 2016, Westchester Power has saved its program participants a combined $8.8 million in Con Edison territory and $1.1 million in New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) territory.
There are two additional CCAs with approved implantation plans as of January 18, 2018:
- Municipal Electric & Gas Alliance (MEGA) was approved for Horseheads and the City of Elmira (Chemung County), Oneonta (Otsego County), Montour and the Village of Montour Falls (Schuyler County), as well as Union and Binghamton (Broome County). MEGA has 32 communities in 5 separate aggregations, 3 of which are formed and proceeding, 2 of which are still in the process of being formed. MEGA serves as CCA Administrator, acting as an agent of the municipality, charged with overseeing creation, implementation and operation of the CCA Program, as well as negotiating Energy Supply Agreements with energy service companies. The CCA Administrator is retained by the municipality via a separate CCA Administration Agreement, adopted by Resolution. Plans suggest there will be a range of choices for member communities as to power mix greening versus cost savings. You can find a list of communities participating in MEGA’s CCA here.
- The third CCA approved by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) in January, 2018 will serve the Central New York villages of Fayetteville and Minoa, along with the Village of Coxsackie and the towns of Cairo and New Baltimore in the Capital District. This program was organized by Good Energy, and is Good Energy’s first CCA program in New York State.
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. It 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:
- Through NYSERDA outreach on the Clean Energy Communities (CEC) program, at least 100 municipalities have expressed interest in CCA.
- Education and outreach efforts related to CCA are under way and the capacity for developing and implementing CCAs in New York State is growing.
The report arrived at three conclusions (see below) and suggested numerous policy and non-policy recommendations to achieve these goals:
- For CCAs to develop and advance Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) and New York State Energy Plans goals, CCA in New York State must provide value to participants, in ways that support investment in clean distributed energy resources and must be economically feasible.
- Assuming CCAs are economically feasible and provide value, resources and support will be required to overcome challenges and costs associated with development.
- For CCAs in New York State to effectively advance REV and SEP goals, state policy needs to enable CCAs to offer customers clean energy products and services other than supply contracts for “basic” supply or RECs for renewable energy located outside of New York State.
Among the policy discussions/recommendations were:
- The possibility of allowing CCAs to collect funds directly for programmatic offerings such as local distributed generation (DG) and energy-efficiency products and services.
- Achieving higher penetration of distributed energy resources (DER) by integrating CCA and community distributed generation (CDG).
- Enabling CCAs to enroll participants in CDG on an opt-out basis, rather than requiring customers to individually opt-in to CDG.
- Enabling counties to form a CCA, and sign contracts on behalf of member municipalities.
- Allowing for billing of DER fees, including those associated with CDG as well as energy efficiency products and services, on utility bills, and also exploring how on-bill financing programs by/through a CCA program can be incorporated into utility billing.
- Allowing commercial and industrial (C&I) demand metered customers to be enrolled in CCA on an opt-out basis.
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 Dec. 15, 2014.
In February, 2015 the NY 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 ComEd (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 NY PSC.
CURRENT AND EMERGING ISSUES
The Public Service Commission laid down the ground rules for all future CCA’s in NY 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 Gov. 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.
- CCA legislation passed the state legislature in 2014, but was vetoed by the Governor for being too restrictive, in favor of developing a more inclusive and flexible policy.
- Sustainable Westchester is exploring some very innovative and exciting synergies with DER to deliver added economic, ecological, and resilience benefit to communities, including community solar, micro-grids, peak demand management, and demand response.
- Electric rates vary markedly within the state. New York City and Long Island have very high rates, while much of the northern part of the state have low rates.
- New York is divided into eleven electric regions, as shown on this map. Community solar projects located in one grid zone cannot sell to customers in the other zones.
LEGISLATION (Partial List)
- PSC Case 14-M-0101 (2014) Reforming the Energy Vision (REV)
- NY State Energy Plan (2015) Calls for 50% renewable energy by 2030
- PSC Case 15-E-0302 (2015) The Clean Energy Standard (CES) is intended to provide an implementation roadmap for the 2015 State Energy Plan
- PSC Case 14-M-0224 (April 21, 2016) The “Order Authorizing Framework for Community Choice Aggregation Opt-Out Program” set the ground rules for all future CCAs in New York and is considered “the CCA Bible” for the state. (Follow this link to the DPS document index, search for Case Number 14-M-0224 and scroll down to 4/21/2016 to find the link to the actual order.)
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