City of Syracuse Looks into Bargaining for Cheaper, Renewable Energy for Residents

May 9, 2018

NYSERDA's Brad Tito chats with councilor Susan Boyle.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

The city of Syracuse is starting to explore the feasibility of using the collective bargaining clout of its residents to negotiate a better rate with an energy supplier.  It’s called Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, and common councilor Michael Greene called an introductory meeting Tuesday to discuss how it works.

“What it does is, rather than city residents just taking whatever the market rate is for energy, we’re combining our buying power and going right to power producers and saying,  hey you can have the opportunity to have 40,000 customers.  Can you give us a discount because of this guaranteed customer base.”

Various energy services companies, or ESCO’s, have gone door to door or advertised their energy and the savings that come with it.  Greene says they might not always be transparent, leaving some hesitant to switch.  He says a CCA would eliminate the risk.

“What we would need to do is make it very clear is that the city is going to be dictating the terms of this.  One of the terms is that the rate will not go up," Greene said.   "It’s going to be a fixed rate throughout the term of the contract.  Unlike some of the other companies which might have a good introductory rate and a skyrocketing rate, this will be the same, so you’ll know exactly what the rate’s going to be when you’re getting into it."

And, he says, residents could opt out at anytime, with no penalty.  Brad Tito was invited to provide details.  He’s NYSERDA’S program manager for communities and local government.  He says one of the goals of a CCA is to provide locally generated power from the sun and other renewable sources.

When we think of Community Choice Aggregation, we’re going to save some money hopefully by switching to an energy services company," Tito said.  "Then we’re going to save you a little more money by offering a community solar subscription.”

Community solar would be optional, but Chris Carrick says offering it via a CCA could be a boon to solar developers.  He oversees energy programs with the Central new York Regional Planning and Development board.  Carrick says it’s a big relief to developers who have to go through a lengthy permitting, interconnection, and financing process for their projects, not to mention finding subscribers.

So rather than solar company 'X' going door to door, or advertise in Syracuse to get a few hundred customers so sign up as individuals, they would go to the administrator and say we want to bid into your portfolio.”

The city would have to pass a local law to go forward with a CCA, and right now councilors are just gathering information.   Minoa, Cicero, Fayetteville, and the city of Oneida are among those in the region who have adopted local laws to authorize a CCA.  More than 60 others have done so across the state.