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Town Urged to Pursue New Energy Model

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 16:40

East Hampton Town’s Energy Sustainability and Resiliency Committee is urging the town to aggressively pursue community choice aggregation and battery storage to meet its goals to fully transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources across all sectors. 

“Today, the committee is seeking your approval to transform C.C.A. and battery storage opportunities into working clean energy programs,” Linda James, the committee’s chairwoman, told the town board on Tuesday. 

Ms. James had hosted a discussion of community choice aggregation at her East Hampton residence in January, with all five members of the board and several from the town’s Natural Resources Department in attendance. The C.C.A. model replaces the utility as the default, monopolistic supplier of electricity or natural gas, and gives municipalities the opportunity to find potentially better prices from private suppliers. It also allows municipalities to choose locally based renewable energy projects, such as solar, demand response, and microgrid projects, for their electricity supply. C.C.A. programs in seven states now serve more than five million customers.

Frank Dalene, a member of the committee, urged the board to adopt a resolution to enable the establishment of a C.C.A. program, which would also launch a process to evaluate such a program’s potential. The town, he said, should also explore increasing its competitive buying power by joining with the Town of Southampton, which has already adopted enabling legislation, and other East End municipalities. 

The board would hold a public hearing, adopt the enabling legislation, and promote its details to residents and businesses, he said. A C.C.A. administrator — a municipality, development corporation, nonprofit organization, private firm, or other third party — would then be chosen to develop and administer the program and procure the energy for participating consumers, who would be able to opt out of the program. 

“It is very important to understand,” Mr. Dalene said, “that each C.C.A. program is unique and developed for the community to incorporate distributed energy resources, renewable energy, and energy efficiency into the C.C.A. program, and approved by the [New York State] Public Service Commission. It is also important to understand that the enabling legislation does not require the town board to make a commitment until the C.C.A. program is developed, approved by the P.S.C., and at that time adopted by the town board.” The program could be stopped at any time before its adoption, he said. 

The existing utility would be required by law to continue delivering reliable power, maintain power lines, and respond to outages, both for customers and those opting out of the C.C.A. program. The Long Island Power Authority is willing to work with towns that adopt a C.C.A. program, he said.

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo has committed to 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind electricity from many developers, Mr. Dalene said, “we believe an opportunity will present itself for very competitive renewable electricity suppliers responding to the procurement process in a C.C.A.” 

The proposal, said Councilman Jeff Bragman, is “a really important step.” The process may be complicated, he said, but “this is one of the most exciting possibilities that we have to meet our renewable energy goals.” 

While there are questions to be answered, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said, he referred to Sustainable Westchester, a collaboration of local governments that has achieved flat electricity rates over a two-year period. “It’s impossible to predict whether or not there’s a cost savings for East Hampton residents at this point,” he said, but “it’s a way of promoting renewable markets as well. I favor this enabling legislation and look forward to us putting that together.” 

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, then presented two more recommendations from the committee, both pertaining to battery storage. The town, he said, should identify town-owned buildings that are suitable for battery storage systems and issue a request for proposals — or, preliminarily, a request for information — for installation of such systems. 

The cost of such systems could be offset by revenue received from a contract with the South Fork Peak Savers load relief program, which the board is considering. Under the program, the town would commit, for four years, to operate existing standby emergency generators, such as at Town Hall and the police station, by and at the direction of Applied Energy Group, an energy industry consultancy that is under contract to PSEG Long Island (which manages the electrical grid on behalf of the Long Island Power Authority), during anticipated peak-demand periods. “You could use that revenue to invest in battery storage so that, going forward, you would have that new technology available to lower demand during the summer, or other times,” Mr. Raacke said. 

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has announced “a pretty rich incentive program for battery storage,” Mr. Raacke said, for which a proposal specific to Long Island is expected this year. 

Battery storage would also add resilience, he said. “You would get the ability to have power during grid outages. They essentially would work just like a conventional generator would work, except they provide cleaner power and much more immediately.” Battery storage systems could also be coupled with solar installations, he said. 

Another recommendation was that the board consider adopting into its code a law and regulations governing the siting of battery facilities in the town, Mr. Raacke said. NYSERDA recommends establishment of a task force to develop municipality-specific laws. “NYSERDA also has a model permit and inspection checklist . . . to make sure everything is done to code.” 

As envisioned in the Comprehensive Energy Plan adopted in 2013, the board was also urged to convene technical experts and consultants to craft an energy policy plan to guide the town toward meeting the community-wide goal to be 100-percent renewable in electricity by 2020 and 100-percent equivalent renewable energy in transportation and heating fuels by 2030. 

The former goal will not be met on the hoped-for schedule but could be achieved if the proposed South Fork Wind Farm is operational by 2022. Of the latter goal, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, “We obviously need to be focused on that next.” His colleagues agreed that the town should move forward on the proposals.  

“We have come a long way,” Ms. James said, “and we are setting standards throughout not only the state but the country.”

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