1. Select a Clean, Renewable Source of Electricity
There are two or three major options to choose from:
- Community solar farm
- Community Choice Aggregation plan
- Energy Supply Company (ESCO)
See below for details:
Community Solar is an innovative option to “go solar” — at no cost and without installing anything. In a nutshell, you purchase clean electricity from a solar farm in New York State at a rate guaranteed to be lower than what your utility charges. Thanks to New York State’s forward-thinking solar regulations, there are no upfront costs, no cancellation fees or other charges!. You receive a discount on your electricity bill, while you reduce carbon emissions and other pollutants, and create good jobs and a clean, green electrical grid in New York State!
The electricity you purchase flows from the solar farm into the grid. Your home or business continues to receive its power directly from the grid as always. But your subscription provides you with solar credits that are deducted from your monthly utility bill.
You can sign up for community solar even if you plan to install panels. That option, considered in Step 7, entails a lead time of up to a year, and a significant investment. Even if you plan to install solar, select community solar or one of the other options on this page in the meantime. You can always cancel your subscription once your panels are installed.
You can sign up for Sustainable Putnam’s community solar program through the link below. Get started today!
Community Choice Aggregation (CCA)
Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, allows towns and villages to join together (or “aggregate”) to select a source of electricity on behalf of the utility customers in their community. It’s a legal entity authorized by New York State that promotes the building of more clean electricity projects.
Pooling or aggregating all of those customers provides the CCA with bargaining power. In effect, the CCA establishes a bulk purchase of electricity, enabling it to command a more competitive price than individuals bargaining with an ESCO or utility. That contract gives residents an additional electricity supply choice that is often clean, renewable electricity at a fixed, lower cost. A new and exciting development in CCAs is the incorporation of community solar projects with guaranteed lower rates. Another advantage of CCAs is that they protect utility customers from unscrupulous ESCOs, complex contracts, and variable electricity rates.
Some CCA critics balk at the “opt out” model that CCAs follow.When a municipality agrees to form a CCA and signs a contract for electricity, everyone who lives within its political boundaries is automatically enrolled. You can voluntarily opt out at the start or at any time, but it’s left to each resident to take that step. CCA supporters point out that the default option for utility customers —your utility selects your electricity source — also requires an opt out.
To learn whether your municipality is enrolled in a CCA, contact your town or village office, or click the link below to visit our community pages for more information.
Energy Supply Company (ESCO)
ESCOs, or Energy Supply Companies, are independent power producers. Although utilities used to generate their own power, New York State legislated a change in 1997 that effectively removed our utilities’ monopoly on electricity generation. (They still have a monopoly on electricity delivery.
The hope was to create market competition that would encourage competition and lower electricity rates. The results have been mixed.
Choosing an ESCO is complicated and time consuming. Most utility customers never make a choice to “opt out” of the utility’s default mix of ESCOs. Utilities are constantly selecting different ESCOs every month. As a result, our electric rates are extremely variable, sometimes causing serious problems for those of us on a tight budget. ESCOs can theoretically provide customers with a lower cost option, but the reality is that most ESCOs supply the cheapest dirtiest electricity they can find.
What’s more, ESCOs require vigilance as rates may be variable or fixed for a contractual period, but the rate becomes variable when the contract expires. Some less scrupulous ESCOs fail to warn their customers and offer a contract renewal. At that point, a customer can try to negotiate a new desirably low rate.
On the other hand, many customers have shared stories about opening their monthly bill, only to learn that their electricity rate dramatically increased because their fixed rate contract had expired. If you choose your own ESCO, keep in mind the old expression, “Let the buyer beware.”
To learn more about ESCOs, click the button below to visit New York State’s Power to Choose website.