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.

 

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.

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Summary of FCWC’s Federation Meeting

Helping Our Member Organizations Plan for the Future

By Kate Munz, Member Relations Coordinator 

On April 29th, 2015, we hosted our annual Federation Meeting. Each year FCWC hosts this meeting as an opportunity for our Member Organizations to congregate and discuss the current state of Westchester’s Environment. FCWC facilitates networking among the organizations and general attendees, so to help our organizations expand their base and

Dr. Mike Rubbo from Teatown presenting on Teatown's current climate change studies.
Dr. Mike Rubbo from Teatown presenting on Teatown’s current climate change studies.

relationships. We also bring experts on a variety of subjects to the meeting to teach our organizations something we think would be useful. This meeting is about strengthening our “federation” and spreading knowledge.

This year we had representatives from 10 organizations, all of whom had the opportunity to share projects they were working on, and what they would like to see out of their membership of FCWC.

Much of 2015, FCWC’s 50th anniversary year, has been spent pursuing two goals: addressing the topic of climate change and sea level rise, and trying to sustain the nonprofit grassroots fundamentals that FCWC was founded on. Therefore it was on these two topics that we chose our experts. The first speaker of the program was Mike Rubbo, Director of Conservation at Teatown Lake Reservation. He spoke about Teatown’s current environmental projects and the efforts they are making to create a more resilient ecosystem. The second speaker was Lori Ensinger, Executive Director at Westchester Land Trust, who discussed the many intricacies of communicating with a Board of Directors.

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