If you’re old enough, you might remember when your electric supply was a simple matter: your power came from “the electric company” (either Con Ed or NYSEG, depending on where in the northern suburbs you lived). They did everything: supplied the electricity, generated it, and bought it as needed from other utilities. You had no say in how much they charged, except
for an occasional hearing before the state Public Service Commission (PSC), which approved rate increases. You also had no say in how it was generated.
Then, in the late 1990s, the PSC approved plans for deregulating the state’s power industry, theoretically to lower rates for consumers. Over a period of years, utilities restructured, splitting off their power generation operations, and offering customers the option of choosing their generation supplier from among a number of “ESCOs”—energy service companies—who would compete with each other.
Customers had a choice of ESCOs offering varying prices, contract lengths, pricing structures, and sources of power—including green or sustainable options. But for reasons that included the extra effort needed, the complexity of the process, or lack of familiarity with the new regulations, most customers simply stayed with their default utility supply from either Con Ed or
NYSEG. So while the idea of competition for lower rates or greener power was there, not many people took advantage.
That’s where we come in. About three years ago, Sustainable Westchester took up this challenge. Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, was enabled in 6 states at the time, but not yet in New York. The CCA bulk purchasing model provides the bargaining power to obtain price and green advantages from ESCO suppliers. The project team obtained expressions of interest from member towns and with support from area legislators navigated to approval of a pilot by the PSC. In 2015 power contracts went out to bid, with the proviso that proposed rates had to be lower than the average
utility power cost for the previous twelve months.
The bid process and subsequent launch was successful. (It was so successful, in fact, that in April of 2016 the PSC issued a "General Order" making CCA possible anywhere in New York State. We like to think that means we’ve done a pretty good job.) Westchester Power was created by Sustainable Westchester as the name for the program, and the entity that administers these contracts. Westchester Power has negotiated to buy electricity at a bulk, fixed price for about 91,000 customers in 20 municipalities. Member towns were given the option of a standard supply or a
100% sustainable supply, with both priced below the amount customers were paying previously. Current contracts lock in these rates for three years in the four towns in NYSEG territory and for two years in the 16 towns in Con Ed territory.
Con Ed and NYSEG still exist, of course; they are the companies that transmit the power to you, maintain the lines, and bill you for everything. The charges for their services, and the charge for the actual electricity you buy, are listed separately on your bill.
In the end, Westchester Power is here for you, our customers. We are reaching out to municipalities in Westchester that have not yet joined and are interested in bringing CCA benefits to their residents, since the more towns that join, the more clout we will have. Our operating costs are paid out of a 0.1 cent/kwh admin fee that comes from the suppliers. We're working to get a better, greener deal for the residents of our member towns than default customers could get on their own, and we’re happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.