New York State Public Service Commission Grants Sustainable Westchester Access to Utility Energy Data for the First Time in History
Data in public domain signals new levels of market transparency for consumer choice

November 25, 2015

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) announced a pivotal decision, authorizing Sustainable Westchester access to a treasure trove of necessary data for the state's very first Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. This is a significant milestone for New York's CCA program, Governor Cuomo's strategic Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) and, more generally, for consumers and local public servants alike, representing a huge shift in New York's power industry.

By putting data and choice in the hands of communities, local advocates aver that benign markets can function on behalf of consumers, grow bigger and operate more efficiently with greater transparency.

"Most notably, the contractual structure and the opportunity it represents will set national precedent. Sustainable Westchester's CCA program will serve as a replicable energy model for New York State and other CCA enabled communities around the nation," said Mike Gordon, Co-Chair of Sustainable Westchester. "By enabling community contracts versus individual contracts, communities are empowered to make smart energy choices as a group, allowing for valuable, intelligent contract features and for economies of scale."

Since being approved in February, CCA has been enacted in 25 municipalities throughout Westchester County, with roughly 150,000 homes and nearly all of the small businesses in these communities participating. Each municipality has passed a local law authorizing its participation in the CCA program.

Sustainable Westchester will issue an Energy Service Agreement (ESA) that municipalities will have agreed on, for signature with an energy service company (ESCO). The winning ESCO bid is estimated to include buying electricity in bulk for more than $100 million, with a similarly significant purchase of natural gas, to follow. Sustainable Westchester is projecting it will achieve a secure price for electricity that is less than the utility has charged on average over the last year. Further, the contracts are expected to allow annual price reimbursements to customers with smart thermostats, and other energy efficiency home improvements that consistently reduce consumption during peak hours.

"The efficiency feature of these contracts is very powerful," said Mr. Gordon "This is one feature that allows only for price de-escalation, when the community achieves reduction in consumption at the few annual hours that the power system is most stressed."

The national cost of power at peak hours is estimated at $19.5B in the residential sector and is one component of the electricity bill that is growing rapidly. "Increasing electricity consumption at peak hours is a critical problem for the state and for the nation," said Karl Rabago, Executive Director at Pace Energy and Climate Center. "If Sustainable Westchester can get private suppliers to bite at a peak demand reduction contract feature, they have created a private sector solution to a major challenge. An efficiency solution would address reliability issues, and add substantial economic value with an environmentally beneficial approach," Mr. Rabago continued.

Early data releases suggest, by Sustainable Westchester's calculation, that the aggregation will spend more than $30 million simply on its consumption during the one peak hour each year. "That's an expense we can reduce through smart management of when we consume," Mr. Gordon noted. "This is an approach that can be applied anywhere in the United States." The organization expects to develop contracts to buy renewable electricity supply and aims to award these in the next two months. These contracts will also be structured to provide cost rebates over time. 

Sustainable Westchester is further trumpeting that its CCA process offers residents a tax cut and resolves a longstanding loophole in New York State's tax collections. With CCA, Westchester residents and small businesses will save sales taxes, resolving the loophole that ensures local municipalities collect the gross receipts tax and are therefore held nearly or entirely whole. The organization maintains that the tax impact is not revenue neutral; taxpayers pay less in taxes, the state collects less in taxes, and the municipalities break roughly even. 

"When you ask the Public Service Commission, they'll tell you that this kind of information has never been available before; it has resided, to date, only with the utilities. The CCA pilot, and the specific data release upends this system, allowing for the commercial sector to step in and support consumers as consumers choose to be supported. Ultimately this will allow consumers to become prosumers - investing in and benefitting from the smart energy consumption infrastructure they create. For example, smart thermostats can become piggybanks creating documented savings and even earnings," said Mr. Gordon.

Sustainable Westchester has received data from participating municipalities and will use it to size the market and project how consumers can save energy and money on their bills through smart buying, augmented by the intelligent application of social media and new technology. Sustainable Westchester will not only share Westchester data, it will also project potential markets that this data will enable, and it will amplify the data to calculate this opportunity for New York State as a whole, for the six other states that have enabled Community Choice Aggregation, and for 14 other states that hold the near-term potential to enable Community Choice Aggregation.

About Sustainable Westchester:

Sustainable Westchester is a membership organization with more than 85% of all Westchester municipalities participating, representing 800,000 county residents. The action group is designed to turn environmental challenges into opportunities to improve the quality of life, economy and future prospects of county citizens. For more information visit: www.sustainablewestchester.org.

For more information:

Sustainable Westchester

Lauren Burke
Tel: (415) 529-5740

Link http://www.electricenergyonline.com/detail_news.php?ID=554584
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