ENFIELD, N.Y.—On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the Enfield Town Board received a presentation from Paul Fenn, president and founder of Local Power LLC, proposing Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) as a way for Enfield residents to get cheaper and more sustainable energy.
The CCA program enables residents to band together in order to secure alternative energy contracts, including more renewable energy, with the CCA allowing energy consumers more purchasing power as part of a group than they would individually. The City of Ithaca has explored similar options as part of its Ithaca Green New Deal.
“Usually, economic and environmental benefits are in competition with each other,” Fenn said, “so either it’s you save the world and stop climate change or you grow your economy. In this case, we’re trying to do both.”
Fenn has been involved with the development of CCA since the 1990s, when the initial model consisted of buying power from the grid and making it greener by buying certificates, enabling people to get greener power and lower energy rates. In 2000, Fenn introduced the second model of CCA, CCA 2.0, which focused on reducing demand and producing customer equity. CCA 3.0, which launched in 2020, seeks to further refine the program from the bottom up in order to meet the United Nations deadline for energy transformation.
The CCA program is currently trying to address how energy is typically generated far from where it is used most often, resulting in land being used for solar panels and wind farms.
“One of the great ironies of the energy industry is that the places where all the energy use is occurring, in urban areas, are the least served by the renewable energy industry,” Fenn said. “It wants to go out to the green fields, it wants to go out to the farms and the forest, it doesn’t want to go into urban areas. So we’re trying to make that happen through a better organization managed by municipalities.”
Public Power builds solar panels on top of buildings, helps to decarbonize buildings, retrofits buildings with energy efficiency measures and takes other steps to take advantage of on-site renewable resources.
Fenn said that there are many barriers that prevent most residents from installing solar panels on their homes, such as the residents not owning their homes, the building not accommodating the technology and the residents having an inadequate credit rating, among others. By taking part in a CCA, residents can invest in renewable energy regardless of whether they rent or own their homes.
“Everyone should be able to participate in some way in this market,” Fenn said. “Even if you’re poor and you have no credit, and live in public housing, there are energy products that you can afford that can benefit you.”
Robert Lynch, a member of the board, expressed concern that the residents of Enfield would not necessarily get the best deal possible if they lost their ability to make their individual choices for power, and asked Fenn whether he got multiple bids.
“We have a financial oblgation to our residents,” Lynch said. “We’re going to co-opt their ability to buy their power from NYSEG. We have a responsibility to give them the lowest possible price, so we go out to bid for something, we have to accept the lowest responsible bidder.”
Fenn replied that CCAs act as brokers for customers who do not have energy choices, since NYSEG acts as a distribution monopoly, more or less.
Other Meeting News
The Town Board voted to adopt a local law to authorize the public bodies of the Town to use video conferencing technology to participate in public meetings.
The law allows board members to participate in meetings via video conference if extenuating circumstances, such as illness, prevent them from attending, as long as they can both be seen on camera and heard. Despite this, the board must have a quorum at the town hall, and while members who participate through videoconferencing may vote, they do not count toward the quorum.
Lynch said the point of the rule is to ensure that the members of the board are present at the meeting, and that members of the public can attend meetings and even via Zoom and if they so desire.
“The ideal is that you have to have a quorum, you have to have a place where people can come and attend meetings, but if a member has extenuating circumstances, they can be excused and they can still participate in the meeting,” Lynch said. “They can’t be counted for quorum, but their vote still counts.”
The meeting was held in a hybrid format, with the town meeting in the town hall, and some attendees participating via Zoom. At the start of the meeting, the board held a public hearing to discuss the proposed law, giving members of the public a chance to speak, ask questions and raise their concerns.
Nancy Spero, a member of the public who participated via Zoom, said she was pleased that hybrid meetings would continue, allowing her to choose between attending in person or virtually.
“I think it’s great for the public to have a choice of whether to come in person or on Zoom,” Spero said.
The state law allowing participating in meetings through videoconferencing sunsets on Jul 1, 2024, so unless the state legislature extends it, the law that the Enfield Town Board passed will expire at the same time.