If ever there has been an appropriate use of the phrase “It’s a win-win,” it would be in reference to the energy supply program known as a Community Choice Aggregation — commonly called a CCA.
A CCA program enables municipalities to join together to aggregate the buying power of residents and small businesses. They allow towns and cities to dictate the terms of how they buy electricity, which in turn allows them to negotiate more favorable rates and designate renewable generation sources.
You may be familiar with these programs. The town of Geneva implemented a CCA program two years ago. Many City residents took advantage of the additional community solar element and joined in. The cities and towns of Canandaigua, Lima, Victor and Honeoye Falls are also among the many municipalities in New York state that have initiated these programs to provide electricity to homes and businesses.
And now the City of Geneva is considering a CCA program as well.
The financial advantages gained through CCAs are many, particularly when energy supply is coupled with community solar. Community solar customers typically see a 10% decrease in their electricity bill. Participating municipalities qualify for grant opportunities that support other sustainability programs. A city the size of Geneva could gain as much as $100,000 toward a qualifying program. Those funds come from the companies that work to implement and manage the program; a CCA saves them the expense of finding customers one by one, so they are willing to donate back and support other municipally selected sustainability projects.
And, of course, these programs support cleaner, renewable sources of energy production — one small step in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, limiting production of greenhouse gases and slowing climate change.
One logistical improvement in CCA programs since some of our neighbors signed on is that community solar charges are now combined with supply and delivery charges in one bill, right on the NYSEG invoice that comes your way each month. When first initiated, the solar program bill elements came separately, an inconvenience that has since been streamlined.
The Geneva City Council is currently considering a CCA program that would name a supplier for renewably generated electricity as the default for all eligible residents and small businesses in the city. Those who wish to opt out of this program can keep their electrical provider just as it is today by simply dropping a pre-paid postcard in the mail, making a phone call, or declining the program online. Opting out can happen at any time, before or after the program is initiated, at no charge or interruption in services. (Keep in mind that this “opt out” system is exactly what we have in place currently. The provider would change, but services would remain the same — except with a lower rate and a smaller carbon footprint.)
If City Council approves this change embraced by so many communities around us, a 60-day informational period will follow. Residents will have many opportunities and resources to learn more and decide if they wish to be a part of the program or opt out. Customers would see no change in their services — in fact, without paying close attention to their power bills, most customers would not even notice the change.
It’s more than a win-win actually. It’s a win-win-win: A win for consumers, a win for the City’s sustainability programs — and a win for the environment.
Jan Regan is a Geneva City Councilor representing Ward 3.