Community Choice and the CCA Coming to Gardiner
By Misha Fredericks
From Issue 48: Winter 2021
In 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CLCPA contains many mandates designed to assist the state of New York in its goals to address and combat climate change. By 2030, 70% of the state’s energy must come from clean, renewable energy.
One way to help the state get to 70% renewable energy is by purchasing your electric supply from sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric. The Town of Gardiner is exploring just such an option. It is considering a CCA (Community Choice Aggregation) for its residents and small businesses.
In a CCA, several municipalities join together. With their leveraged buying power, they can get a lower than market rate for 100% renewable energy supply.
For example, if a resident went online to their electric company and chose a 100% renewable electric supply they might pay 6.5 cents or more per kwh. The Hudson Valley Community Power (HVCP) CCA currently has a fixed rate of 6.4. In the spring of 2021, HVCP CCA, which includes the town and village of New Paltz, will issue a request for proposals for a new, fixed rate.
The Town of Gardiner is considering an Opt-out CCA, which means all residents and small businesses will be automatically enrolled except those who have a third-party electric supply or those enrolled in a low-income assistance program (APP) with their utility. Before the CCA goes through, there will be Public Information meetings for residents to be educated about the CCA and to ask questions. These will be posted on the Town of Gardiner website at www.townofgardiner.org/announcements.
“When the Program launches, there will be a number of “opt-out” options, including a pre-paid mailer,” explained Jeff Domanski, the head of the nonprofit partner to Joule Community, which was selected as the CCA Administrator. The idea for bringing a CCA to Gardiner originated with the Climate Smart Gardiner Taskforce (CSG) – a group of local volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes in the town on various projects that improve the town and help the environment. Recent accomplishments include installing an EV charging station at the Wallkill Rail Trail, planting trees to stop runoff along a tributary, and more recently, doing a streetlight inventory to improve lighting that will save the town money while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If they can get Gardiner to adopt a CCA for the town, they would earn points that could lead to Bronze Certification for the town and grant money from NY state that could fund more projects for the town.
These future projects would benefit the community but some residents wonder at what cost? Like Maximilian Kimlin who stated, “Some people don’t want governments to automatically opt them in. Being opted into something without my consent feels a little slimy. Let people make their own choice.”
He further explained that he felt that the program itself was an excellent initiative, “We should be funding alternatives sources of energy to coal.” His primary concern is that though it looks easy to opt out, many people, like his grandmother, may simply overlook a mailing or mistake it for junk mail, and end up opted in to the CCA against their wishes, and which might raise their electric bill unbeknownst to them.
Other citizens fear that if one corporation can automatically enroll them without their consent, it sets a dangerous precedent that could further erode our democracy. In response, Jeff Domanski said that CCA customers can opt-out anytime and are protected by the Public Service Commission so there would be no “slamming” or other predatory practices that sometimes have occurred with third-party energy companies. In order to secure the cheaper rates for renewable energy, CCAs need to guarantee they have a large enough customer base to cover the bulk energy they purchase. This is why they only offer an Opt-Out option (there is no Opt-In CCA option).
Mr. Domanski also stated that in some surveys it was found that most Americans support renewable energy and were willing to pay extra for power from renewable sources, but only 10% of Americans voluntarily do so. He said that an Opt-Out CCA helps people realize their desire to purchase clean, renewable energy easily and effortlessly.
Upcoming Public Info Meetings: Tuesday, March 16th, 2021, 7:00 – 8:30 pm: Meeting Link: https://tinyurl.com/gardiner16march
Saturday, April 3rd, 2021, 2:00-3:30 pm: Meeting Link: https://tinyurl.com/gardiner3april.