Buying in Bulk

Public hearing set in Beacon on renewable energy proposal

By Jeff Simms

The Beacon City Council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 17, on a proposal by Renewable Highlands, the brainchild of two Philipstown residents who are trying to create a vehicle that would allow municipalities to seek lower prices and renewable energy sources for thousands of households.

Jason Angell and Mike Rauch have approached officials in Philipstown, Cold Spring, Fishkill and Wappingers Falls, as well as Beacon, to organize a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) district that they say could give the municipalities better rates for electricity. CCAs are similar to the Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) that offer individuals the ability to choose an electric supplier for their homes.

CCAs pool utility accounts to gain bargaining power in negotiating energy supply agreements. All accounts within the designated CCA are automatically enrolled, although account holders can opt-out at any time. In the Highlands, Central Hudson would continue to provide delivery and billing services; CCAs only negotiate rates and sourcing.

“By collectively negotiating, we can get the type of deals that the big players get,” Angell explained. “When you’re an individual homeowner, you don’t have the negotiating power of a hospital or Home Depot.”

Only about 25 percent of New Yorkers have switched their electric supplier using ESCOs since the state deregulated the industry in the 1990s. By contrast, a CCA would pool thousands of accounts at once.

The public hearing will give residents the opportunity to provide feedback before the City Council considers joining the CCA. The Town of Fishkill is holding a similar hearing on Jan. 18 and officials in the other three municipalities are weighing the proposal.

New York State authorized the creation of CCAs in April after a pilot program launched in Westchester County. That program — which includes about 100,000 households and small businesses — has locked in electricity rates projected to save the 20 participating municipalities between $4 million and $5 million over the next three years, Angell said, with 14 of the municipalities also switching to 100 percent renewable sources.

“That’s 70,000 houses and small businesses,” he said. “When you’re moving whole cities over to 100 percent renewable, it’s massive.”

If a Highlands CCA is created, it would be the second in the state.