Westchester Power Program launches first-in-state energy aggregation

Something remarkable happened when the Sustainable Westchester team working on the community choice energy aggregation program opened the energy supply bids from leading energy service companies last month.

Clean energy won BIG!

In February 2015, the New York State Public Service Commission approvwestchester-map4ed Sustainable Westchester’s petition to pilot a municipal energy aggregation program in Westchester County with an order that enabled this first-in-New-York effort.

What is a community choice or municipal energy aggregation program?

In states with deregulated energy supply markets, energy service companies m
ay sell electric or gas supply to consumers. New York deregulated about twenty years ago. About seventy energy service companies are authorized to sell supply as a commodity to New York customers. Some are more scrupulous than others. Acquiring retail supply customers one at a time is expensive for the supply companies. As individuals, customers have no bargaining power with the suppliers.

When all the homes and small businesses in a city bid out their combined electric supply together, suddenly, economies of scale help both the customer and supplier reduce costs and increase rate choices. Community choice programs have been commonplace and successful in six other states, but now for the first time, in New York State as well.

Ever since the February order, the Sustainable Westchester’s team hit the road to visit with dozens of city, town and villages all across the County. Municipalities that were interested in joining the aggregation program needed to adopt local legislation enabling them to proceed. Benefitting from great pro-bono advisers, the team prepared draft legislation and resolutions to assist the municipalities.

Next, the team pre-screened energy service companies to identify those that best fit our criteria, such as transparent business practices, good customer service, creditworthiness and ample experience supplying community choice aggregation programs in other states. In addition, the team developed a comprehensive Electric Service Agreement with ample protections for the municipalities and consumers and worked with attorneys from twenty municipalities to finalize all the language.

The Westchester Power Program introduced a few conditions that went well beyond the February Order to benefit the consumers. First, the energy bid required that bidders accept the Electric Service Agreement terms and conditions verbatim. Second, bidders needed to provide a basic supply rate for a fixed period of no less than 24 months that would be lower than the benchmark of the average 2015 basic supply rate from the default local distribution utility (ConEdison or NYSEG). Third, bidders needed to provide a 100% renewable energy supply rate as well for that same period. Fourth, bidders had to allow individual customers in a participating municipality to leave or enter the program or switch between the two rates with no added fees or penalties.

By the time, the team sent out the Request for Proposals to the pre-screened supply firm, over 110,000 homes and businesses in twenty cities, towns and villages were included as potential customers. This buyers group represents four out of ten county residents, a remarkable feat of collective action all by itself.

The day the bids were opened led to a startling realization that both the basic supply rate and the 100% renewable supply rates were below the 2015 benchmarks from ConEdison and NYSEG.

“Suppliers who really wanted to enter the New York aggregation market stepped up,” notes Glenn Weinberg, the lead consultant. “In the end, buying 100% renewable energy green supply for the next two or three years will cost less than buying the basic, brown supply last year.”

By the time the program goes live in May, over 70,000 homes and small businesses will be buying 100% renewable energy supply in the fourteen cities, towns, and villages that chose to make that option the default for their jurisdiction. These customers “going 100% green” represent three out of ten county residents and, astoundingly, two-thirds of the entire 110,000 consumers in the program.

“Collectively, our consumers choosing the green option will buy 650,000 megawatt-hours per year of certified renewable energy credits,” states Leo Wiegman, Sustainable Westchester’s Executive Director, “That amount is the energy output equivalent to adding 84,000 residential solar systems in the county overnight.”

“Our instant market for clean, non-fossil, non-nuclear energy supply is the largest collective action in New York to date to address climate change and create real market demand for clean energy.” concludes Weinberg.

For more information, visit www.westchesterpower.org.

 

Making a Sound Investment in Energy

March 2016 E-news

solar-panels-homepage

Some events over the last few weeks are a reminder that we should take pause to fully assess the energy sources that we, residents of Westchester County, are investing in.

Over the course of four weeks our backyard has endured a ‘radioactive’ water leak from Indian Point Energy Center, and a home-heating oil spill contaminating the Bronx River. Not to mention there has been the ongoing battle concerning the high-pressure natural gas AIM pipeline expansion, which has received countless calls demanding construction to be halted.

We think it is high time that we collectively take stock and reevaluate where we want our energy to come from.

Background:

Indian Point ‘radioactive’ water leak

Indian Point has been at the center of many contentious discussions for decades. The facility is aging, and for years there have been reports of cracks, spills, and accidents. On Tuesday, February 6th, it was reported that Indian Point recorded a severe spike in radioactive, tritium-contaminated water at several monitoring wells[i]. The follow-up tests done a few days later on February 10th noted that the highest concentration was 80% higher than originally reported.

This leak is a major concern; it potentially threatens the health of the Westchester’s residents and environment. Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken steps to address this issue, starting a state investigation into the nuclear facility[ii]. Entergy, the company that owns the Indian Point facility, states that this latest leak should be of no concern to the public.

Home-heating oil spill contaminating the Bronx River

On Saturday, February 28th as much as 600 gallons of home-heating oil contaminated the Bronx River[iii]when a truck delivering to an apartment complex in Yonkers began to leak.

Approximately 2,100 gallons of oil spilled onto the roadway, of which 600 gallons drained down the storm drain on the road.[iv] The Department of Environmental Conservation and the Coast Guard were notified, and are staying on top of the situation.

Let’s make a sound investment:

We know that accidents happen, due to either human or mechanical error, mistakes are a normal occurrence in our daily lives – we get it. However we also think that these latest events are a window into the real risks these energy sources pose.

Renewable energy offers significant public health and environmental benefits. Air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas is linked to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, and cancer; and replacing these energy sources with renewables has been found to reduce premature mortality and lost workdays, and reduced overall healthcare costs.[v]

 


 

We think it is time to seriously invest in safer, greener, renewable fuels and move away from potentially contaminating sources.

[i] Riverkeeper, Environmental and Health Organizations Call for Immediate Indian Point Shutdown (http://www.riverkeeper.org/news-events/news/stop-polluters/power-plant-cases/indian-point/environmental-and-health-organizations-call-for-immediate-indian-point-shutdown/)

[ii] LOHUD, NY to probe ‘radioactive’ water leak at Indian Point, 2/6/16 (http://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/politics-on-the-hudson/2016/02/06/ny-probe-radioactive-water-leak-indian-point/79929984/)

[iii] LOHUD, Oil truck leaking near Bronx River, 2/27/16 (http://www.lohud.com/story/news/2016/02/27/oil-truck-leaking-near-bronx-river/81030662/)

[iv] DEC- DHSES Statement on Heating Oil Spill in Yonkers, NY (http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/NYSDEC/bulletins/1399a46?reqfrom=share)

[v] Machol, Rizk. 2013. Economic value of U.S. fossil fuel electricity health impacts. Environment International 52 75–80 (http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable.html#references)

Building a Green Legacy: A Local Nonprofit

Bedford 2020 is making waves in local environmental planning

FCWC’s Announces its Three Honorees for its 50th Anniversary Gala on September 26, 2015

FCWC 50th LOGO

On September 26, 2015, Federated Conservationists of Westchester County (FCWC) will be holding its 50th Anniversary Gala to celebrate its achievements over the past five decades. The evening will be held at a private estate in Sleepy Hollow, and will be filled with music, hors d’oeuvres, and good company. We will be marking this milestone event by honoring three of Westchester’s most influential environmental leaders, Pace Law School, Bedford 2020, and Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig.

FCWC took care in the selection of its honorees, as it was important to represent its three founding pillars: Education, Advocacy, and Science. Additionally, due to the significance of this occasion, FCWC wanted to honor an institution, a nonprofit, and an individual. We are delighted to award these outstanding environmental leaders with our Green Legacy Award; we thank them for their environmental contributions to our Westchester community and the world.

We are proud of what our honorees have accomplished in the realm of environmental progress, so would like to provide a little background on each of them.

Bedford 2020

Screenshot 2015-08-13 23.39.45A local nonprofit, Bedford 2020 has been a trailblazer for community outreach and grassroots environmental activism. Their mission has been to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the year 2020 in the town of Bedford, NY. Bedford 2020 has identified a five-part action plan to achieve this goal, the areas include: Energy, Food & Agriculture, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, and Water & Land Use. FCWC is appreciative of their many accomplishments and progress this group has made. We are delighted to have selected Bedford 2020 as one of this year’s Honorees, as they represent the importance of grassroots organization.

bedford2020This year, one the group’s most successful events was an Environmental Summit & Solar Action Day; an event that had over 550 attendees and over 88 sign-ups so far for Solarize Bedford – Mt. Kisco. An inspiring day of action, there were workshops, speakers, and expo to showcase the great green businesses and community groups in the area.  The Summit  brought great environmental visionaries all under one roof, and really jump-started (funny electricity pun!) the community into environmental action.

From one nonprofit to another, FCWC truly respects all the hard work Bedford 2020 has done to make their hometown a better, greener place. This group has become a community hub, and a respected institution in Bedford and all of Westchester. We are pleased to be presenting this Award to this outstanding group.

Learn More:

“Greening Our Parks” – Conservation Café

autumn_hyde_parkOn Friday May 29, FCWC and our partners in the “Conservation Café” presented the latest Conversations on Conservation program entitled “Greening our Parks.”

Many parks and open spaces are increasingly looking at how they can advance their missions through sustainable operations on their lands. These can include but are not limited to alternative energy projects, waste reduction initiatives, and pollution prevention projects. By many accounts, our parks and open spaces are leaders in sustainability, yet many of these projects remain secondary attractions to the natural resources that we seek out when visiting these locations. The Conservation Café sought to highlight some regional sustainability initiatives taken by parks in our own backyards.

Alyssa Cobb, the Assistant Commissioner for Parklands and Planning for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation discussed the New York City Community Parks Initiative (CPI). The CPI is an investment in the smaller public parks that are located in New York City’s densely populated and growing neighborhoods where there are higher-than-average concentrations of poverty. The Initiative will engage New Yorkers in rebuilding local parks and reconnect communities to the green spaces right outside their doorsteps. ‘Greening’ is a targeted improvement that the NYC Parks and Recreation Department is looking to incorporate into the CPI. Cobb also noted that stormwater management was a big concern when updating some of the City parks that include significant amounts of impervious surfaces.

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