MEGA CCA - The Power of Aggregation | Program may cut electricity costs
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Program may cut electricity costs

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> Saratoga Springs will be the first municipality in the area to explore Community Choice Aggregation, which would allow the city to pool the electricity accounts of residents and small businesses.

The bulk purchasing of electricity can result in lower electricity rates for residents, officials said.

Community Choice Aggregation is a municipal energy procurement model that replaces the utility as the default supplier of electricity for virtually all homes and small businesses within a jurisdiction, according to NYSERDA

The CCA is a non-binding agreement. Consumers who do not want to participate in the program will have the ability to opt out of it, officials said.

The Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance chose Saratoga Springs for the project because of the city’s ongoing efforts to address energy needs, officials said.

It’s a seven-step process, Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan said, and the city has finished step one.

“Step 1 was choosing MEGA as our CCA administrator; Step 2 is a public education process; Step 3 would require us to adopt a local law; Step 4, we do a competitive bid for energy supply,” said Madigan. “Step 5, select the low-bid supplier; Step 6, citizens can opt out of the program; Step 7, savings begin for residents.”

People outside of Saratoga Springs may be able to save money via the CCA project as well.

In order for the program to begin, officials said, there needs to be at least 40,000 households in an area.

Saratoga Springs is located in Zone F on the New York State Independent System Operator Load Zone. Saratoga County is one of nine counties in Zone F.

Households throughout Zone F would be eligible for the city’s CCA project down the line. The same utility company — in the Spa City’s case, National Grid — has to be in the territory.

“There are no Community Choice Aggregation programs outside of Westchester County. Westchester County was a pilot program.” said CCA project leader Louise Gava. “The reason we have nothing to point to yet is it’s brand new. New York just figured out what the rules were, they just figured out the process, we’re still working in concert with the state and the utilities and the public service commission to figure out some of these exact processes for this program because it’s so new.”

MEGA, a not-for-profit development corporation, helps upstate New York governments save and stabilize energy costs for municipal facilities through group buying program, according to its website.

MEGA will oversee the creation, development and implementation of the program. No taxpayer or government funds will be used in the creation or operation of the program.

Although nothing’s scheduled right now, MEGA will host workshops to instruct residents about the program.

“The goal is to have in-person opportunity to where myself and my colleagues present the concept and then we offer residents the opportunity to ask questions,” said Gava. “The questions tend to be not just about Community Choice Aggregation. My experience shows that people have a lot of questions about their utility bills in general. They don’t understand them. I get that. There are a lot of lines. They are very confusing. They have a lot of questions about renewable energy and what kind of options exist out there, for example, for them to have solar at their home.”

Saratoga Springs will have the ability to customize its program based on values and priorities, such as sourcing renewable, green energy.

Madigan said the city has a quarter of the estimated households, so more municipalities throughout the area will need to join.

“There is no risk involved. And on the heels of the Spa Solar Park project our residents are interested in cheaper and potentially cleaner energy. At the very least this project will offer the public an education about their energy use and bills. Throughout the state other municipalities have joined, but we are a leader in our region within the energy field,” said Madigan. “I expect others will join on quickly. This is an excellent program for residents. NYSERDA includes CCA as 1 of 10 checkpoints to complete to be considered for their Clean Energy Community Program, which allows the city to apply for grant funding of up to $250,000.”