TRR photo by David Hulse 

Clean-energy activist Bruce Ferguson of Callicoon Center, left, and Glenn Weinberg, director of Smart Community Choice Programs at Joule Assets in Bedford Hills, NY, appeared before the Lumberland Town Board on February 14.

Lumberland looks at solar alternative

GLEN SPEY, NY — Solar energy proponents want Lumberland officials to consider a new energy provider alternative that New York State has made available, which could provide cheaper, renewable energy.

Clean-energy activist Bruce Ferguson of Callicoon Center explained last week before the Lumberland Town Board that Sullivan County has many solar-power start-up providers, but until now they have had to go door-to-door to seek users, with little success.

Ferguson said the state Public Service Commission next month is expected to approve formation of a Community Choice Aggregate (CCA), which would pool these providers and allow them to contract with towns and villages to become their default energy provider. Local rate payers “… could save 20 to 30% just with the elimination of power company marketing costs,” he said.

Glenn Weinberg is director of Smart Community Choice Programs at Joule Assets in Bedford Hills. His company would become the local administrator of the new CCA. He said that while the state has allowed power customers to choose “monopoly” providers, most people, leery of change and details, stick with the default provider. For most of Lumberland, that is Orange & Rockland Utilities (O&R). “New York is trying to be more progressive. There are more than 300 small- and medium-sized solar firms in the pipeline, a couple dozen in Sullivan County.

“We’re going to incentivize CCA by offering guaranteed savings. That’s never been done before,” he said. The savings are guaranteed because the state will require 10 to 20 years of guaranteed savings.

Ferguson said there is no obligation to buy; people will still have a choice and may stick with O&R. “If CCA doesn’t meet the guarantee or is not highly competitive, you’ll never pay a penny,” he said.

Westchester Power launched the state’s first CCA in 2016. It now serves over 100,000 business and residential customers in 20 municipalities and has saved ratepayers nearly $3 million during its first year of operation.

Dave Sparling was skeptical and wondered how much the spokesmen would make. Ferguson said he was a volunteer. “I’m doing this because I believe it’s good.” Weinstein’s firm’s fee would amount to eight one-hundredths of a penny of the cost, he said.

“What’s the harm in their profit if we’re getting savings?”, Steven Kosmacher asked.

The only obligation for Sullivan municipalities would be the need to pass a local law to participate. “The local law just allows you a choice. There’s no reason not to do it,” Weinstein said.

The board took no action on the proposal, but Supervisor Jenny Mellan said providing a local choice “just looks like a service to residents, and it provides a carbon footprint reduction. We should look into it… I’m very interested.”

In other business, the board noted that, for a second month, the ordered cleanup at the Bodnaruik property in Mohican Lake had not been completed by the deadline. Cheri Bodnaruik said she has cleaned up much of the debris, and what was left was a burn pile and material frozen in the ground. The board agreed to advertise for bids for a contractor to complete the work, which would be opened at the March 14 meeting. The board allowed Bodnaruik to continue the cleanup in the interim and agreed the bids would be set aside if an onsite inspection found it completed before the bid


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