How can Connecticut consumers have more local control over the amount of renewable energy they receive? Through the use of a tool called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), Connecticut cities and towns can do more to direct their energy purchases toward renewable sources — while saving money at the same time. Other states such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, California and four more are doing this, and our legislators should make it possible here, too.
Right now, your utility 1) decides who to buy electricity from on your behalf (procurement), then 2) delivers the power to your home or business by maintaining poles, wires, transformers and substations, which is what utilities really get paid for, and 3) does customer service, including billing. In the CCA model, a municipality or group of municipalities forms a CCA, which takes over the power procurement function of the utility. Using the bulk purchasing power of the CCA’s residents and small businesses, the CCA typically meets or beats the utility’s standard offering and ratepayers can decide to purchase greener power than offered by the utility. All ratepayers become enrolled in the CCA, but any ratepayer who wants to opt-out can return to the utility’s standard offering. The utility continues to take care of delivery, maintenance and billing.
Wait a minute, you might ask, how is it possible to beat the utility’s price? The simple answer is that the nimbleness of a CCA, through its in-house or consulting energy professionals, allows it more flexibility in competitive power purchases. A number of studies show that CCAs generally offer their ratepayers lower prices, with many providing cleaner energy at the same time.
But CCAs don’t just lower prices and increase renewable energy content. In California and some other states, CCAs actively promote energy efficiency and are catalysts for local clean energy projects, creating jobs and spurring economic development. This can begin to shape the electricity demand profile of the territory it serves and in this way have more control in lowering prices and emissions of all ratepayers.
Here in Connecticut, enabling CCA for the state is supported by close to 20 organizations, including the CT League of Conservation Voters, Acadia Center, Consumers for Sensible Energy, Peoples Actions for Clean Energy, Efficiency for All, Operation Fuel, Clean Water Action, CT Roundtable for Climate and Jobs, and Solar CT. About 15 CT state legislators now support enabling CCA in our state. And four municipalities, New Haven, Middletown, Mansfield and Simsbury, have recently passed municipal resolutions supporting CCA for CT. Other towns are in the process of reviewing supportive resolutions.
What can you do to help? For one thing, pass a resolution in your town supporting CCA. This is the best way to start the discussion with your local officials and clean energy advocates about the benefits of CCA. Resolutions send a message to your state legislators that there is an appetite in your town for this policy tool. Contact us and we will be glad to make a presentation in your town and provide a sample resolution.
CCA is a tool, one that can help Connecticut towns and cities play their fullest role in reducing the cost of power for struggling ratepayers while, at the same time, increasing energy efficiency efforts, strengthening our local infrastructure resilience, and bringing more clean energy to town residents. The Connecticut legislature needs to pass enabling legislation and then the Governor should sign that bill into law. Once that occurs, it will then be up to Connecticut municipalities, their town officials and local energy activists to get to work forming their own CCAs.
Ask yourself this: if Massachusetts, New York, and California, arguably the three states that are addressing climate change most effectively, have fully embraced CCA, and if two other New England states, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, have enabled CCA, why shouldn’t Connecticut?
Peter Millman, Michael Uhl, and Dan Knudsen are members of Peoples Action for Clean Energy.