After receiving overwhelming public support for the idea, the Southampton Town Board unanimously agreed on February 26 to establish a Community Choice Aggregation Energy Program.
Supporters say the plan puts energy power in the hands of the people by allowing the town to replace the Long Island Power Authority as its default energy supplier and act as a power supply broker for its residents. While residents are seeing dollar signs with potential rate savings, using renewable energy resources is what got some like Ella Engel-Snow behind the idea.
“The reality is that our entire planet is facing environmental crisis, and we in Southampton are at the end of an island that is going to be increasingly vulnerable as the climate crisis gets worse, so to me, there needs to be a larger discussion of cost,” she wrote in a letter to the board read by Sustainable Southampton green committee co-chair Glorian Berk.
“What do we value? Do we value our natural resources, or do we value our lives? Our children’s lives? I understand the cost is important, and I do believe in affordability, but the CCA would allow us more power to be innovative and to transition toward renewable energy resources,” the letter continued.
She stressed the need for the town to take the step toward reducing fossil fuel consumption.
“Otherwise, the community could be worrying about a lot more than electricity cost,” Engel-Snow said. “I think change is hard, but we have to change our individual energy consumption and waste.”
A CCA, through which members could request that their power be provided by green sources, would help the town meet its goal of providing all its energy needs through renewable sources by 2025. Although no other Long Island municipality has yet to adopt a CCA law, a similar program has produced $17 million in rate savings for Westchester residents, according to officials of the consortium known as Sustainable Westchester.
Water Mill resident Tip Brolin, a member of the town’s sustainability committee, said he likes that it’s a risk-free venture. It’s a way for the town to explore the state-approved energy procurement model, but it does not commit the town to implement the program.
“This is merely to investigate whether we should proceed to the next step of the process,” he said.
Flanders, Riverside & Northampton Community Association President Ron Fisher, sustainability committee co-chair Dieter von Lehsten, and North Sea residents Anne Reisman and Lynn Arthur also backed the decision.
Southampton will now select a CCA administrator, which will be part of this nonprofit. The administrator will perform community outreach and data research before requesting bids, with the possibility of eventually awarding a contract. The program requires approval from the state Public Service Commission, while LIPA would negotiate terms with the town.
“We will finally get a seat at the table with PSEG to finally be able to tear down this monopoly that has so much control over us,” von Lehsten said. “This is very important.”
Arthur, speaking as the energy chair of the sustainability committee, reported the town received 24 letters with 300 signatures in support. As a resident, she thanked the board members for their leadership in a broader sense.
“There’s been a lot of discussion within surrounding municipalities,” Arthur said. “These adjacent communities are recognizing your leadership. East Hampton adopted our HERS rating, our building code that we defined combining rooftop solar and energy efficiency. Other municipalities view these programs and policies as best practices, and they’re now asking the sustainability committee to share this information. At the end of the day, it’s showing that reducing our carbon footprint and CO2 emissions is of the utmost importance.”