Power in numbers: K’hook sees path to lower rates

KINDERHOOK–The Village Board held a public hearing Wednesday, December 18 concerning a local law to join the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. “This local law is intended to explore the ability of residents and owners of property to increase buying power through a group purchase of electricity through a CCA,” the public notice for the local law reads.

The notice also says that the benefits for the CCA program include “saving money on electric bills,
avoiding spikes in the price of electricity, combating energy telemarketers and door-to-door sales and accessing renewable ‘green’ electricity.”

The board signed an agreement to work with MEGA (Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance) last fall to
explore the option of joining the CCA. The board will need to pass the local law to become part of the CCA group, which includes several cities, towns and villages in the capital region. With about 90,000 households now in the CCA, including the cities of Albany and Troy, MEGA will bargain with electricity suppliers for a rate that the member municipalities can either accept or opt out of.

At the beginning of the meeting Mayor Jim Dunham introduced Katy Vescio from MEGA, who gave a presentation. During the introduction, Mayor Dunham said of the proposal to join the CCA, “We are proceeding with it.” But the board did not vote on whether to adopt the local law at the December 18 meeting. Board members plan to discuss the matter again at the regular meeting January 8.
There were only a few comments during the public hearing held after the informational meeting. About a dozen residents and all but one board member attended the meeting.
During Ms. Vescio’s presentation, her second in the village, residents asked many questions about the program and MEGA.
Ms. Vescio explained that MEGA was one of three companies licensed by the state to be a CCA
administrator. She said CCAs are a new program created by state law and regulated by the Public Service Commission. “Everything is FOIL-able and transparent,” she said of information about her company and the program. (FOIL stands for Freedom of Information Law.)
The CCA programs were initiated as part of Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV)
initiative. Ms. Vescio said that her company was formed in the 1990s to help municipalities with their energy bills and that MEGA is the only not-for-profit CCA administrator. The other two administrators are private companies.
CCA programs are for residents and small businesses and not for municipal use, so the Village Hall and the village’ Highway Department building would not be part of the program.
Residents will get a letter about the program once MEGA has a rate and the village has agreed to accept that rate. Ms. Vescio explained that if the rates MEGA negotiates are too high, the village can opt-out of the program. And if the village accepts the rate, individual residents will still have the choice to opt-out.
The village could also decide to go with 100% renewable energy, which Ms. Vescio said may be a
slightly higher cost than the “grid mix” of energy, which would be green and other energy sources.
She also said that the program is compatible with community solar programs but would not apply to
property owners who have solar panels that feed energy back to the energy grid. Ms. Vescio said residents with those kinds of solar panel systems would not be eligible for the program since they already have an agreement with an energy supplier.
Resident Jerry Callahan said he supported the program and had worked with MEGA on municipal energy programs in the past. But he worried about the work that village staff would have to take on when residents receive a letter about the program and called with questions.
Ms. Vescio said the supplier would have a call line and MEGA also has an information line to call.
She stressed that residents could opt out at anytime and if they chose to come back into the program they could.
She also said that residents will still get one bill from National Grid, which remains the electrical service provider and still owns the poles. “You’re paying National Grid,” she said of the billing.
There is more information at the http://megacca.org/.
Ms. Vescio also made a presentation at the Kinderhook Town Board meeting in December. At that
meeting she stressed that the program was very local, so if residents in the town or in the Village of
Valatie want to join the CCA, the Town Board and the Village of Valatie Board would have to pass their own local law.
The next Village of Kinderhook Board meeting is January 8 at 7:30 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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