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ITHACA, NY -- The Planning and Economic Development Committee (PEDC) met with Terry Carroll, the energy educator from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, to hear about community choice aggregation and see if it could be a good fit for Ithaca. Community choice aggregation (CCA) is essentially a bulk buying agreement for energy supply by one or more municipalities on behalf of its residents.

A participating municipality would pass a local law to purchase an energy supply on behalf of residents and small commercial accounts; any individual would be able to opt out.??

Carroll said there are pros and cons to choosing the CCA route. For one, he said that a CCA gives energy choice control to your neighbors, friends and families, rather than from a multinational corporation.

“So that’s something you have the ability to influence,” he said. “The community can say, ‘we’re looking for cheaper electricity or cleaner electricity.’”

A factor that could be both a benefit and a downside is the rate. While it would ensure a more steady and predictable cost for customers, the CCA could also lock customers in at that rate for a certain amount of time. That means if electricity prices drop, you’re locked in at that higher rate. However, Carroll reiterates that people can opt out of the program.

“A hallmark tenant of CCA is that anybody is able to opt out,” he said.

A CCA isn’t expected to be disruptive to customers in any way, and Carroll said many people likely wouldn’t notice a difference. However, he said the hope is that people will be getting a cheaper rate with cleaner energy.

If Ithaca were to decide to go with a CCA, they would likely partner with groups like Sustainable Tompkins to provide administrative support to take the burden of customer service off of the city. Carroll said that CCAs will charge a fraction of a cent, “like .002,” which will go toward the admin of the program.

For municipalities interested, the next step would be to educate board members and community members.

“The CCA effort is going to live or die by how the residents react to it,” Carroll said. “If they think it’s a good idea, then it has a good chance of succeeding. But if they feel blindsided and like they don’t want their government involved, or if too many people opt out, it could fail. So you have to think about outreach and education.”

Carroll added that in his experience, about 5 –10% of residents opt out initially.

Seph Murtagh, chair of the PEDC, said there was definitely interest in exploring the possibility of a CCA, especially as the city aims to reach carbon neutral status by 2030.

As of now, conversations and work are ongoing within the Tompkins County CCA working group, which is currently seeking potential funding to hire a person or group to lead the effort and find which communities are actually interested, and what requirements they would have to meet.

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