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Community choice aggregation is a nationwide revolution in energy procurement with transformational implications for Long Island.

The benefits of CCA are threefold. It offers ratepayers an avenue for lower energy costs. It introduces competition into the energy marketplace, incentivizing public utilities to deliver a better product. And it places entire communities down a path toward 100% renewable energy.

The popular fiction is that fossil fuels are cheaper and more efficient than their expensive and immature renewable counterparts. CCA proponents challenge this thinking, stipulating that renewables can outperform fossil fuels with the proper economic structure, a structure supporting energy consumers instead of suppliers.

Classical economics indicates that one company controlling the entire supply of a given commodity constitutes a monopoly. Since the Industrial Revolution, vertically integrated utilities have exercised exclusive control over the supply of energy, setting prices arbitrarily and controlling the market at will.

CCA seeks to flip this dynamic on its head, introducing competition into the energy market using the bulk-buying power of a community of people. Though they are opted in automatically, ratepayers can opt out at any time at no expense. More importantly, CCA gives municipalities a choice over the energy source, with the option to select renewables over fossil fuels.

Competitors’ cheaper, greener power may incentivize utility companies to deliver a better product. If consumers want affordable and renewable energy, the utility’s rational choice would be to invest heavily in renewables and reduce rates. Competition spurs innovation and growth, benefiting all parties.

Here at TBR News Media, we hold that local governments must be highly active and potent and challenge the centralized bureaucracies in Albany and Washington when those fail to deliver meaningful results for our communities. For too long, state-regulated utilities have not done enough to counteract the effects of climate change.

A U.S. Energy Information Administration report notes, “In 2021, renewable sources and nuclear power, together, supplied 54% of New York’s total in-state generation from utility-scale and small-scale facilities.” For New York state to reach its energy goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the report indicates that figure must climb to 70% by 2030.

To meet this task, local governments must do their part, negotiating on behalf of their residents for 100% renewable energy. CCA offers our local officials the means to fulfill this end.

The Town of Brookhaven recently instituted a CCA program for a two-year fixed rate on natural gas prices. Given the volatility of today’s international gas markets, Brookhaven’s program has potential cost benefits.

However, the town has only dipped its toe into the greater CCA dialogue. A gas-exclusive program offers merely the financial rewards of the CCA model without the reduced greenhouse gas emissions. We encourage Brookhaven leaders to study the Town of Southampton’s model, where electricity may soon be procured from 100% renewable sources.

In the meantime, other municipalities should take a close look at CCA. The portside Village of Port Jefferson — already grappling with the hazardous effects of coastal erosion and worsening flooding — could send a strong message by joining this effort. Other municipalities, such as the towns of Smithtown and Huntington, could do so as well.

CCA is a cost-effective, market-friendly and environmentally sustainable policy. For residents and the natural environment, it is time for all our local leaders to take it seriously.

Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (wearing sunflower towards rear of group) with colleagues from multiple levels of government, trade union members and leaders. Photo courtesy of Bontempi's office

On Friday, March 25th, Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (Centerport) joined with a wide variety of elected officials from the town, county and state levels to call on the governor to prevent a ban on fuel connections in new construction.  Standing side-by-side with the electeds were trade union members and leaders, who spelled out very clearly what such a ban would mean – the loss of jobs and technologies that do not yet have full replacements.

“Although we can all confidently say that we are committed to the environment, we have to be realistic and fair in the policies we put in place,” said Bontempi.  “Seeing the increasing use of cleaner energy technologies is a positive thing, but we cannot pretend that everything older can be replaced overnight.  Newer technologies replacing older ones need to be adopted in stages so that we can properly adapt to the changes and ensure we are getting a better product or service in the end.”

Essentially, some of the proposals being considered by New York State lawmakers include banning the installation of natural gas and/or mixed use fuel connections in new construction by the year 2024.  Proposals of this nature are raising the ire of many in communities across the state who rely on fuels such as natural gas in a time when oil prices are rising quickly.

“We have to look at the needs of the people and balance them with the capabilities of the technologies that are available both new and old.  Doing anything less is shortsighted and dangerous,” added Bontempi.