New York has one of the most ambitious renewable energy visions of any state, yet it is just beginning to embrace community choice. Sustainable Westchester submitted a petition to set up a CCA pilot in December, 2014 and it was approved by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in February, 2015. The new CCA, called Westchester Power, began serving customers in May, 2016.
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’s current supply contract is with Constellation Energy.
Westchester Power serves twenty participating municipalities (see map). The 110,000 customer accounts in those communities represent 40% of the county’s population.
- 100% Renewable Energy default communities: Cities of New Rochelle and White Plains; Towns of Bedford, Marmaroneck, New Castle, North Salem and Ossining; Villages of Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Ossining, Pelham and Tarrytown
- Basic Supply default communities: Towns of Greenburgh and Lewisboro; Villages of Mount Kisco, Pleasantvillle, Rye Brook and Somers
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.
855,000 individuals, accounting for 90% of Westchester’s population live in those 41 communities. The largest city, White Plains, has a population of 58,000.
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.
Several towns and counties are seeking to follow Westchester’s success in starting a CCA.
- The Board of the City of Oneonta in Otsego County voted in Aug. 2016 to explore Community Choice Aggregation and has chosen MEGA as its CCA administrator.
- In Onondaga County (near Syracuse) the villages of Manlius, Minoa and Fayetteville are considering starting CCAs according to this article from Oct. 2016.
- 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.)