After several years of discussion, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) recently announced that it would give large cities across the state an easier path toward implementing power purchasing agreements through its Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. Although that may sounds like a lot of acronyms and a small adjustment, this change could play a large role in moving New York State toward its renewable energy goals.
CCA is a program from the PSC, which regulates the state’s utilities, that allows municipalities to create power purchase agreements through their local utility. This program thereby enables entire municipalities to transition to renewable sources as long as they provide their residents with the option to “opt out.” The recent update to the CCA program allows municipalities like New York City, which have significant population, to set this path toward renewable energy in motion by starting with a specific neighborhood or borough rather than requiring that the entire municipality make the transition at the same time. By giving environmental groups, homeowners, and municipal officials the opportunity to work together on bulk purchases of renewable energy resources at an even more localized level, this adjustment to the CCA program keeps New York on track to becoming a more environmentally friendly state and achieving the state’s ambitious renewable energy goals. Importantly, the CCA program supports the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) campaign towards achieving its renewable energy goals of 50% renewable energy by the year 2030. By helping New York State municipalities buy power in a more environmentally friendly way, this program furthers the vital targets set out in REV.
The first pilot CCA project was approved in 2015, and this update to the program could open the door for more projects in the future. This pilot, the Sustainable Westchester Program, was implemented through a nonprofit partnership of Westchester County municipalities and served nearly 90,000 residents and businesses. At the start of the CCA, it was estimated that the average customer would save around five to eight percent on their monthly bill through the Sustainable Westchester Program — and so far, the Sustainable Westchester Program was found to reduce customer’s electric bills by about $10 each month.
Some policymakers, however, are cautious about the full implementation of the program. Diane Burman, the state’s PSC Commissioner, has cautioned rolling out the CCA as a statewide program before more adequate information is released about the Sustainable Westchester program. In order to fully implement the CCA on a large scale, Commissioner Burman believes NY should first look at examples of other states. Other communities around the state have also raised questions about the viability of Westchester’s CCA pilot program — but the PSC’s recent change in the CCA program will open other opportunities for segments of larger municipalities to serve in a leadership role in the push for increased renewable energy.
We are optimistic about the possibilities for the CCA program, and this recent change offers important opportunities for municipalities, local nonprofits, and homeowners to accelerate the transition to renewable sources of energy. If municipalities like New York City can begin to work at a small scale to move the CCA program forward, our renewable future might be closer than we think.