The Town of Gardiner residents were invited to a public meeting Saturday afternoon to learn more about their participation in the community-wide community choice aggregation program.
The Feb. 20 presentation and Q&A session was led by Jeff Domanski of Hudson Valley Energy, the nonprofit facilitating Gardiner’s transition to renewable and cleaner energy consumption. The forum was the first of several, though upcoming dates have not yet been determined.
“It’s a policy that enables municipalities, cities, towns and villages to determine default energy offerings for their community members including electricity supply and community choice solar on behalf of its community members and small businesses,” Domanski said at the start of the forum, emphasizing that the program is a choice — residents have the opportunity to opt out of the program and revert back to their previous energy supplier at any given time.
The Town Board had passed a March 10 law to explore alternative energy sources through the CCA program, and unanimously appointed Joule Community Power as its administrator in September. Despite these actions, the town has not officially adopted the program, which is regulated by the state Public Service Commission.
According to Domanski, several benefits to opting into the program include potentially lower electricity prices. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, other benefits include the rapid shift to greener power resources; local control over electricity generation; expanded consumer options and an increase in local jobs.
There are two available programs, he explained. First is electricity supply, which would be a definite part of the program if Gardiner chooses to move forward, and the second is community choice solar, which the town would have to consider including. Those with solar panels on their property already would have to opt into the latter choice to receive its benefits.
“If you have solar on your house … you can be part of the electricity supply part of the program at that fixed rate if you want to take advantage of it,” Domanski said in response to a question. “If Gardiner goes forward with an opt-out community solar program,or if they choose to go with an opt-in.”
Another resident questioned the potential increase in cost by adopting the CCA-appointed energy provider. A friend of his, he said, wanted to use renewable energy, but couldn’t afford switching from Central Hudson, which offers a lower price in his case. “Is this simply a way to save money overall on renewable or save money overall?” the resident, identified as Andy, asked.
“We want it to be the latter and it’s structured to be the latter,” Domanski said, adding that it’s meant to be a win-win scenario. “We came in 7 percent less of [Central Hudson’s 12-month cost] average, positioning us to be providing those savings. Well, the world really turned upside-down economically and that did affect our ability to deliver.”
Domanski said that over the last several months their cost had been higher than Central Hudson’s, but the rate is expected to decrease — the current program rate is not what it will be going forward, he said, though Hudson Valley Energy is unsure what that rate will be. But in cases where the CCA choice is too expensive for residents, they have the opportunity to put a block on their account at any time. Community members will be automatically enrolled in the program when it is enacted, but everyone has the choice to revert to their original supplier.
One resident questioned whether Central Hudson would fill in to provide energy if the chosen supplier experiences an outage, but Domanski ensured that the situation is unlikely to occur because the supplier always buys in excess. Gardiner residents should always have a sufficient supply of energy in a CCA program, he said.