Pleasantville has added its name to a growing list of Westchester communities looking to offer residents a cheaper way to buy gas and electricity.
With little discussion and no dissent, village trustees went on record this week in support of pilot-program legislation now pending in Albany. It would give any Westchester municipality—Pleasantville, let’s say—or a group of them—perhaps the Northern Westchester Energy Action Coalition’s 18 communities—the authority to negotiate with independent energy suppliers for better rates than homeowners could likely achieve on their own.
Energy-service companies (ESCOs) already solicit homeowners, promising a cut-rate alternative to the supplies provided by traditional utilities like the Con Edison Co. “But fewer than a quarter of the people have signed up,” Mayor Peter Scherer said before the vote at Monday’s village board meeting.
The legislation, separate bills by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) and state Sen. Greg Ball (R-Pawling), would “allow [Westchester] communities—municipalities—to band together to establish a community-choice aggregation, as it’s called,” Scherer said.
The village would “negotiate for rates for electricity and gas,” the mayor said, “and make those rates available to our residents.” Qualifying ESCOs would be asked to submit bids to capture a customer base suddenly far larger than their own efforts have so far achieved. In return for the expanded numbers, companies would have to guarantee, as part of a contract, to provide lower rates than the new customers—residents and small businesses—could get from Con Ed.
While the village would nominally deliver all of Pleasantville to the ESCO’s rolls, exceptions would apply. For one, Con Ed customers would be free to opt out and remain solely with the utility. And residents already signed up with an ESCO would not be included in the bulk shift unless they specifically ask to change suppliers.
A growing number of independent energy suppliers have been courting utility customers for years. “At the moment, as many of you know, there has been the opportunity to buy your energy and gas through various free-market companies,” Scherer said. “In fact, Con Edison has encouraged people to do it.
Despite that endorsement and their own sometimes-aggressive marketing, however, ESCOS have lured away only 22.7 percent of utility customers statewide.
Con Ed would continue to distribute the electricity or gas, maintaining the infrastructure, which it owns, and billing customers as before. The bills would have, in effect, two parts: the supply portion—the ESCOs’ share—would account for roughly two-thirds while distribution would reflect the final third.
The measures pending in Albany would establish a five-year pilot program in Westchester only. The program, which mirrors laws already in place in a half-dozen states, has been enthusiastically supported by the Northern Westchester Energy Action Coalition (NWEAC).
endorsement Monday, at least seven of NWEAC’s 18 member municipalities have
formally called on the state Legislature to green light the trial program.
Several others have scheduled votes in coming days.
States with active programs claim at least modest savings in utility costs. Some of the states—Illinois, for example, citing reductions of 25 percent—report even more impressive results.