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Schenectady moves towards community energy decision

Schenectady moves towards community energy decision

Pro-CCA group lobbies lawmakers at public hearing
Schenectady moves towards community energy decision
The Schenectady City Council is considering entering into an energy purchase agreement.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

SCHENECTADY — The City Council is inching closer to making a decision that could lower energy bills for households in the city. 

Under a community choice aggregation program, or CCA, National Grid would continue to be responsible for delivery, maintenance and power outage problems. 

But administrators would shop around for the lowest-cost energy supplier, which advocates believe would result in overall cost-savings for consumers. City residents could opt-out of participation in the plan, and continue to purchase their energy through National Grid.

The CCA energy supply itself could shift, for instance, from natural gas to renewables.

City Council is currently weighing implementation legislation that, once adopted, would allow the city to ink a deal with an administrator. 

A second energy service company would then be brought on to manage the effort.

Four people spoke at a public hearing on Monday, all of them in favor of CCAs. 

Most were members of Capital District Community Energy, a pro-CCA committee formed as municipalities around the region continue to weigh participation in the bulk purchasing agreements.

Speakers touted CCAs as a way to tackle climate change at the local level. 

“Simply put, there’s no better way Schenectady can take action to combat climate and emissions,” said Jeff Corbin, a Niskayuna resident who works at Union College. 

City resident Pam Buono said CCAs help lower costs for consumers and ultimately reduce carbon emissions.

Liz Mastrianni said the arrangements may broaden consumer access to green energy sources.

Renters, for instance, are often shut out of utilizing solar panels. 

“That makes it basically a non-option for the majority of people who rent,” Mastrianni said. “I strongly hope you will follow through in making a smart choice for a smart city.”

Two potential administrators pitched themselves to City Council this year: Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA) and Good Energy.

Both run opt-out models, which means all customers would be entered into the agreement and would have to specifically opt-out of participating. 

As part of the process, administrators are required to pay for and conduct outreach campaigns to educate property owners.

Several speakers on Monday urged the City Council to utilize MEGA, citing the Ithaca-based company’s buying power and emerging deals with other Capital Region localities.

MEGA has said they aim to sign up 40,000 households in the Capital Region. As of Tuesday, Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls, Guilderland and New Scotland have all committed to exploring CCAs with MEGA, said Louise Gava, project leader. 

Niskayuna was expected to vote Tuesday night. 

Schenectady can also work with localities in nine counties and portions of three more as part of municipal collectives which would offer more competitive pricing. 

Several City Council members indicated they need more public input before making a decision. 

“This is a big decision for [City] Council to make,” said Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo. 

Councilman Vince Riggi said he’s heard early feedback from constituents, primarily older residents, who are against the initiative. 

“They don’t want to be in something they’re automatically opted into,” Riggi said. “It smacks of Big Brother a little bit.”

Localities have the option of revisiting energy suppliers after a period of time, but the specific time frame varies. 

The city must go through the RFP (request for proposal) progress for potential energy suppliers.

“We’ll weigh what’s on the market and what’s available,” said Mayor Gary McCarthy, who asked the City Council in May consider the concept.

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