Journal News (Gannett): Towns band together for cheaper energy bills

Bulk energy purchase expected to save money for thousands of residents, small businesses.

It’s a truism that savvy consumers have known for decades — the more you buy, the less it costs. Buying in bulk is why people flock to warehouse stores to stock up on everything from toothpaste to toilet paper. It’s why many schools and municipalities band together to buy supplies.

It’s also why 20 Westchester municipalities have adopted local laws to join Sustainable Westchester in a state pilot program to purchase electricity and natural gas. The pilot, approved in February by the state Public Service Commission, aims to improve the bottom line on energy costs for thousands of Westchester residents and small businesses.

“I’m very surprised as to how many communities are getting involved,” said Mike Gordon, co-chairman of Sustainable Westchester, a consortium of grassroots “green” advocates and local governments working together to address environmental issues and improve the quality of life, economy and prospects of people who live here.

The number of cities, towns and villages taking part in the so-called “community choice aggregation” gives the organization more leverage when it puts out what is now an estimated $150 million bid to buy energy in bulk. Sustainable Westchester plans to negotiate a fixed price, three-year contract with an energy provider. Gordon said the agreement will be made with an Energy Service Company that agrees to charge less than the average energy price over the past year.

When the contract goes into effect Jan. 1, natural gas and electricity will still be delivered to homes and business by Con Edison or NYSEG, depending on where you live. All residents and small businesses in those communities who do not already buy energy from an Energy Service Company will automatically be enrolled in the program; if they prefer to continue buying their energy from either of those utilities, or another provider, they can do so by opting out.

Source: Towns band together for cheaper energy bills