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Sustainable Westchester Set to Begin Talks on New Fixed-Rate Energy Deal

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Noam Bramson, executive director of Sustainable Westchester.

The executive director of Sustainable Westchester said last week he expects the pricing for the organization’s Westchester Power program to be vastly improved when a new contract goes into effect in November.

Noam Bramson delivered a presentation to the New Castle Town Board last week focusing on some of the upcoming changes, including introducing greener options for municipalities that will be part of the program for the next contract.

However, Bramson acknowledged that he has heard from many displeased officials and residents in multiple municipalities where the fixed rate that was negotiated in 2022 has far exceeded Con Edison’s rate.

According to the Westchester Power page on Sustainable Westchester’s website, the Con Edison residential rate in May was 8.32 cents per kilowatt hour compared to the 13.68 cents for the standard option, which includes fossil fuels, and 15.44 cents for the renewable option.

In every month since the start of the current contract in November 2022, Con Edison’s rate has been better for ratepayers.

“We’re not happy about that,” Bramson said. “We know that a number of municipalities are not happy about it. But there’s a reason for that. The contract was completed in mid-2022 just as the war in Ukraine was breaking out. At the time energy prices were high and predicted to go higher was the mainstream explanation. Contrary to the forecasts, energy costs declined and so the fixed rate set in that environment ended up being higher.”

However, conditions for the new contract negotiations, which is set to begin next month before taking effect in November, are more favorable, he said. First, many of the state’s dirtiest peaker plants will be taken out of service heading into 2025, putting pressure on standard prices before new energy sources are available, Bramson explained.

Also, with only two of 29 municipalities in Westchester that are signed up for the current contract having chosen the standard option and New York State’s regulations changing, the new contract will no longer offer 100 percent fossil fuels, he said.

Bramson explained that instead, the choices will be the basic option of half hydro power and half fossil fuels and the enhanced choice of 50 percent hydro and 50 percent wind and solar for the first time, the greenest option the program has been able to offer to date.

However, that latter option is price dependent, meaning if the difference in price between the types of renewables is too large, that would not be offered.

Bramson said residents will also have an “opt up” alternative to go with 100 percent hydro power instead of going with the basic of fossil fuel and renewable.

The next contract will likely be between 12 and 18 months.

“We think, based on what we’re hearing now, that a one-year contract is most probably, but if it turns out 18 months gets us a better rate, we may very well go in that direction,” Bramson said.

Preliminary estimates peg the basic option of between 11.5 and 12 cents per kilowatt hour, 12.5 to 13 cents for the 100 percent hyrdo opt-up choice and 13 to 13.5 cents for the blend of hyrdro with wind and solar.

“All of those are considerably lower than the default rate today,” Bramson said.

He urged to New Castle officials to make their decisions in the next few weeks.

“We hope that holds and there’s a reason to move quickly because we want to take advantage of what is a favorable pricing structure,” Bramson said.

The significant difference between the Con Edison rate and the program in the current contract has been a source of angst for officials in some towns. Last month the Lewisboro Town Board voted to leave the program.

“I’m done with it,” Lewisboro Councilman Andrea Rendo was quoted as saying when that board rescinded the agreement. “People are mature enough, they don’t need someone to tell them what’s best for them and leave it up to them to opt out. People should want to sign up, not opt ​​out.”

The opt out will continue, Bramson said. But for those residents who want to be part of moving toward green energy, Westchester Power is the most convenient way, he said. The state’s goal is to use 70 percent renewables by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040, and in 2023, it saved more than 368,000 metric tons of carbon, more than installing LED lights, green fleets and weatherizing buildings.

“This single program, Westchester Power, has done more to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions then all of those municipal actions combined,” Bramson said.

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