The Capital Region Community Choice Aggregation program is delaying its process of going out to bid to get competitive prices from electricity suppliers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program, managed by Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA), seeks to help 13 municipalities purchase electricity in bulk from renewable energy resources. The municipalities totaling 90,000 households that enrolled to explore the program are the cities of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs and Watervliet; the towns of Bethlehem, Guilderland, New Scotland and Niskayuna; and the villages of Voorheesville, Altamont and Kinderhook.
“We’re experiencing a slight delay but we’re still moving forward and we expect it to be in place later in the fall,” said CCA Project Organizer Nicole Correia.
Client Relationship Manager Katy Vescio said a major reason for the delay is because MEGA wants to be sensitive to how municipalities are facing the pandemic.
“We know that COVID-19 has overwhelmed people and we want to be sensitive to the fact that moving forward with CCA needs to be a conscious decision for all those participating,” she said. “People are preoccupied with the public health crisis and we want to make sure the municipalities want to move forward with this program with a focus.”
Correia and Vescio were unsure how exactly energy and electricity prices are affected by the pandemic, saying that commodities are fluctuating and demand for electricity has declined. They said they wanted to wait until it is safe for the program to resume so that MEGA can go out to bid to get competitive prices; by then, they would have a better understanding of the state of electricity prices and electricity suppliers.
MEGA’s website indicated that the CCA program was originally planned to in place by this September. MEGA now hopes to go out to bid in late summer, unlike May as originally intended.
As the program is on hold for now, MEGA has continued doing educational outreach to municipalities to explain what the CCA program is about, give updates and answer questions via Zoom webinars. To view the webinars or see when the next one is scheduled, visit megacca.org.
“As we wait, we want to continue providing information for residents who either never heard of the program or knew about it since last winter,” Vescio said. “The education is for everyone. It’s good to refresh leaders and get people and businesses up to speed, so that we continue spreading awareness and maintaining understanding.”
Prior to the pandemic affecting the CCA program, Correia said the program was “in really good shape,” with all enrolled municipalities passing local laws to help move it forward and it received required approval from the state Department of Public Service.
They said municipality leaders were all notified of the delay and have kept in communication with them since the pandemic began.
Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven wrote in an email to Spotlight News, “I’m disappointed that the energy market changed so dramatically, but I fully agree with the decision to postpone the bids. My core goal in CCA is to painlessly shift our residents to greener energy at competitive rates. We will be able to do this more effectively when the market stabilizes.”
Guilderland Town Supervisor Peter Barber wrote, “Each of the municipalities has agreed that a delay was a good idea because of the pandemic and volatility in the energy industry. We are hoping to restart later in this year and are eager to advance the conversion to renewable energy as soon as possible.”
Watervliet Mayor Charles Patricelli said, “I feel confident it’s still a good program and I think [MEGA] will do what it can to get it moving. I’m OK with hanging in there and taking it one day at a time.”
He added, “No residents have recently reached out to me to ask what’s happened with the program because I think nobody has been really thinking about it, with everything going on now. It doesn’t mean they’re not interested but people have put bigger issues like the census on the back burner too. We’re all just trying to make it through.”
Correia said that once MEGA can go out to bid to get prices and present them to the municipalities to consider, any municipality can leave the program if it does not like any of the offers, meaning that the CCA program is not binding. The program can only move forward if enough municipalities totaling 40,000 households want to.
For more information, visit megacca.org/capital-region-aggregation.