ITHACA, NY -- Six months after a presentation about community choice aggregation (CCA) from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Planning and Economic Development Committee heard about it again from Luis Aguirre-Torres, the city’s director of sustainability. When the committee heard the original presentation, the director of sustainability role had yet to be filled, but Aguirre-Torres has started moving toward community choice aggregation more concretely.
Essentially, community choice aggregation is a bulk buying agreement for energy supply by one or more municipalities on behalf of its residents. A participating municipality would pass a local law to purchase an energy supply on behalf of residents and small commercial accounts; any individual can opt out.
Aguirre-Torres told the committee that he had been working for several months with other municipalities about pursuing CCA.
“The aggregation of potential customers allows for better negotiations,” Aguirre-Torres said. “I believe it would work to do this at the county level […] However, probably just the city and town will pursue it.”
A CCA would guarantee 100% renewable energy to the city and town of Ithaca, and all residents would be enrolled unless they opt out. The city and town would eventually need to pass ordinances to seek the CCA.
Alderperson Cynthia Brock asked about the price differential for residents and what it would cost in administrative funding.
Aguirre-Torres said he anticipates the savings could be 20-30% compared to the retail price, and that they could likely lock those savings into a long-term price with a 15- 20-year deal. The administration of the program would be paid for through the electric bill. He said that even with paying for those administrative fees, residents would still see around 20% in savings on electric bills.
“At the end of the day, savings remain,” he said.
Brock asked if there was a threshold where if enough people opted out of the CCA that it would become economically infeasible. Aguirre-Torres said yes, but that public outreach is part of the program.
Joining a CCA is also pretty low-risk, and in the previous presentation, it was stated that customers likely would notice no difference to their service other than a lower cost and knowing they were consuming clean energy. The only real potential downside is if for some reason electricity prices drop dramatically, the city and town could still be locked into the previously agreed upon rate.
Aguirre-Torres said the recommendation now is to move forward with just the town of Ithaca to get the process moving more quickly. He said with the city and town joining forces, they can likely accomplish everything in about 12 months. From there, other municipalities can sign memorandums of understanding to join in the CCA.
This discussion was preliminary, and eventually an ordinance will have to be passed by both the city and town. However, that is likely months down the road.