Skeptical consumers have long been conditioned against falling for something that sounds too good to be true.
But that’s exactly what some New Castle residents may have thought when they received a letter early last week to explain the new Westchester Power program. The program consists of 20 municipalities that recently agreed to participate in an effort to purchase bulk electricity and lock in lower energy rates for consumers.
The letters were sent to a little more than 100,000 households around the county by Sustainable Westchester, the consortium representing the 20 municipalities that signed the two-year contract. The correspondence informs residents in the participating communities of the program that is scheduled to go into effect on May 1.
Within the first couple of days of being received, about 20 New Castle residents contacted the town’s Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) or town hall questioning what the program was about, said SAB Chairman Steven Wolk. Some even wondered whether the letter was part of a scam.
“I think there is an understandable this-can’t-be-real kind of thing,” said Suzi Novak, a New Castle SAB member. “I think there was a certain amount of surprise, even though we had put it in the (town’s) newsletter and had told people we were considering this. We all know that everybody’s busy and you can’t all get completely informed. So when it came, it was a surprise for some people completely.”
Residents in New Castle and the other municipalities that have enrolled in the program can rest easy. Westchester Power will help save consumers money because it has locked in a lower rate for electricity from ConEdison Solutions, the energy supply company that Sustainable Westchester contracted to deliver the energy. It is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison.
Novak said all energy consumers who have been receiving their power through Con Edison are automatically enrolled in Westchester Power. Residents may opt out by calling ConEdison Solutions, by visiting the Westchester Power website and filling out a form by clicking on the Opt Out bar, or by returning the opt out postcard within 20 days of receipt of the letter. There are no penalties to opt out.
Estimated savings for the average house in New Castle based on recent 12-month averages would be about $46 a year for the “green option,” where the electricity is derived exclusively from renewable sources. Customers can choose the “brown option,” which uses conventional fossil fuels and nuclear power, and save nearly $80 a year on their bill.
The program also has no effect on Con Edison, Novak said. The utility makes no money on the power source, only through delivery through its infrastructure which they will continue to do.
If there are service interruptions or other questions, customers would continue to contact Con Edison.
Novak explained that New Castle was the first municipality that selected the green option as the default option. Consumers may choose the slightly less expensive brown option by visiting www.westchesterpower.org. In the other municipalities, which includes Mount Kisco, Pleasantville and Bedford, residents can visit the Westchester Power website to choose the green option.
Novak said the SAB is proud New Castle is a leader in promoting the cleaner energy choice.
“The truth is if this was just about saving money it wouldn’t be worth all the trouble,” she said of the nearly two-year effort to launch the program. “The really exciting part is the opportunity for people to opt in for the green if their town has not chosen the green for the default.”
Customers may choose to opt out of the program after it has started by calling ConEdison Solutions. If they opt out but want to return at a later date they may call back, but because energy rates fluctuate the price will likely be different than the Westchester Power rate.
Wolk said homeowners who are currently enrolled with another energy supply company should check their contract to see if they can leave the program if they want to participate in Westchester Power or if there are any penalties to leave before the expiration of their contract.
He said that after the first couple of days, the calls from the public stopped. Considering the letter was mailed to about 5,800 town residents, the roughly 20 calls received from skeptical residents was a small percentage.
“I expect there’s going to be more questions but that was to be expected,” Wolk said. “We really wanted to be prepared.”
ConEdison Solutions can be reached at 1-888-437-1722. For more information, visit www.westchesterpower.org.