Southampton Town officials charged with helping the town meet its goal of providing all its energy through sustainable means by 2025 urged the town board on Thursday, September 13, to take the necessary steps to launch what is called a Community Choice Aggregation program.
The program is one of many recommendations in New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy. If the town were to move forward with the proposal, it would gain the right to negotiate with the Long Island Power Authority to obtain energy from sustainable sources, most likely saving money participants in the process. It would also be allowed to take other steps, including creating community solar farms and large-scale battery storage projects, to help reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and smooth out summertime energy spikes that threaten to cause blackouts.
Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone was joined by Lynn Arthur, the co-chair of the town sustainability’s energy subcommittee, and representatives from other town departments in asking the board to schedule a public hearing on creating the CCA program.
Although the board took no action on the request, members expressed general approval of the proposal, with the exception of Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who said he needed more information before moving forward.
He questioned whether it would be better for the town to wait until it could form an alliance with other East End towns and Brookhaven to achieve a better economy of scale in negotiating power. “It ought to move forward with the largest possible pool,” he said.
Schneiderman also noted that the cost of energy is typically volatile, and if the town were to undertake a CCA program, it would be possible to that its members would lock into a high rate.
Arthur said that was highly unlikely. In Westchester County, where an increasing number of communities have created CCAs, consumers have realized nearly $10 million in electricity savings since 2016, she said.
In Westchester, consumers are allowed two options to purchase their electricity, Arthur said in a separate interview on Friday. A cheaper alternative includes some electricity generated by fossil fuels, while a slightly more expensive option is limited to electricity from sustainable sources. “It is still less than what they were being charged by Con Ed,” she said.
She added that consumers could opt out of joining the CCA program and continue to pay regular rates for their power.
Zappone told the board that a version of a law needed to create a CCA has already been drafted. If the town held a hearing and received favorable feedback, the next step would be to select an administrator for the program, most likely a nonprofit organization. The town would then submit a plan to the state and request detailed load data from LIPA before moving ahead with the program.
Zappone and Arthur stressed that creating a CCA would give the town standing in helping negotiate with LIPA for Long Island power rates.
As an example, Arthur said LIPA is planning to build a $513 million transmission line from the Shinnecock Canal to East Hampton to help provide extra electricity when demand is at its highest during peak periods in the summer. If Southampton Town had a CCA, she said it could propose other, less costly measures, such as a program to subsidize storage batteries in private homes. During peak periods, the home would be automatically switched to battery power, reducing the stress on the grid. The batteries would be recharged at night when demand is much lower and the cost of electricity is cheaper.