At its caucus last night, the Albany Common Council reviewed Community Choice Aggregation, a bulk electricity-buying program for residents and small businesses.
A push is on to introduce CCA, an alternative to traditional electric service providers, to upstate New Yorkers.
Nicole Correia is Mega CCA project organizer. Mega stands for Municipal Electric And Gas Alliance. "Mega is a nonprofit local development corporation and we are partnering with the City of Albany, Schenectady and Troy along with several other local governments on exploring the Community Choice Aggregation program. Community Choice aggregation is about a bulk purchase of electricity for residents and small businesses in those communities. And the real core of the program is bringing more electricity choices to the communities and helping people to understand the choices they have when it comes to their energy."
In Albany, Local Law B would create a city code authorizing creation of a CCA, which automatically includes all eligible utility customers, moving them from National Grid to another provider unless they have a block on their account. Seventh ward Common Councilor Cathy Fahey: "This is a meeting of one of the council's committees on the legislation, the local law that would allow the city to pursue Community Choice Aggregation as a choice for residents and small businesses here in the city of Albany. We're hoping to vote on this March 3. We reviewed the legislation tonight, and there's going to be some changes to the legislation because of the discussion we've had and then we'll review it again on February 20th."
Fahey encourages residents to become more familiar with CCA to ensure a smooth transition to an environmentally-friendly policy with a goal of 100% renewable energy that could one day include community solar. She says the first hurdle is providing residents with informational materials detailing the mechanics of the utility switch, including brochures translated into other languages.
- Watch the Council Caucus via Periscope HERE
Louise Gava is CCA project leader for the Municipal Electric And Gas Alliance. "Right now we're working to translate some of our FAQ documents into other languages. So those will be shared. And posted I hope on the city website will be the intention. In terms of right now National Grid has informed us that every resident in the city of Albany receives a electricity bill in English. And so it is not possible for us to know what language to mail them something and so they're going to have to if it's, if they don't understand it, they're going to have to proactively go and find the information that we've provided elsewhere in another language. So that's sort of what we're working with now. But we're talking with the City of Albany who has actually an RFP out for translation services, to figure out what kind of other steps we can take to make sure that people get this information in the language that makes sense to them."
Gava says Albany County doesn't meet a threshhold where 20 percent of a municipality's population has to have a language other than English as their preferred language before a utility is required to bill in that language. Customers will be mailed information on opting out should they choose to retain their existing service provider. For now CCA only impacts electricity, not natural gas, and only affects the "supply" portion of the bill.
Fahey says misinformation is being shared on social media, and the public may be wary of veering away from National Grid. "Individuals who have had bad experience with ESCOs and with hidden fees and so on, but this is a highly regulated program, and we've got 13 area, 14 area municipalities participating in it. So we're feeling really positive about what this can do for our environment here in the city of Albany and also get a better price because it's, you know, a buying club of sorts."
Among those municipalities considering CCA is Troy. This week neighborhood meetings were held in Lansingburgh and South Troy. Troy's City Council will consider a new local law on March 5th.