Yonkers residents will join the ranks of renewable energy consumers at competitive rates as part of the Westchester Power sustainable program.
With electricity rates expected to increase in 2022, the program will lock in a rate a little higher than last year's average.
"Ultimately the program is about increasing the uptake of clean energy, and we believe this is the most economically effective way and the most impactful way for residents to be a part of that," Maria Genovesi, director of marketing, communications and outreach for Sustainable Westchester, said in an email.
Yonkers residents will automatically be enrolled in Westchester Power, in which they'll pay for hydroelectricity instead of electricity generated from fossil fuels.
Taking effect in March, the program will lock in monthly electricity rates until late 2023. But residents have the option to opt out at any time.
Sustainable Westchester administers the program, called Westchester Power, which provides electricity to 28 county municipalities. Yonkers will make the 29th.
City officials said the move will make Yonkers the largest city in the state to participate in a Community Choice Aggregation program, which allows local governments to put out bids for the total amount of power — in this case electricity — participating residents are buying.
The program is in line with the direction of state-level energy goals: By 2040, New York will require 100% carbon-free electricity from renewable and nuclear energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Passed while former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in office, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act set a 2040 goal of a zero-emission electricity sector with 70% of energy generated from renewable sources by 2030. A release from Gov. Kathy Hochul's office earlier this month said the state was "on a path" to achieve that goal.
In 2020, 43% of New York's energy production came from fossil fuels, while 55% came from zero-emissions sources, such as hydro (23%), nuclear (29% while Indian Point was still operating) and wind (3%). State energy officials say it's likely that in the years following the Indian Point shutdown, fossil fuel-generated sources of energy will fill the gap until renewables catch up.
Here's what you should know about the program, what it means for your bill and how to opt out:
1) 100% Renewable: Residents will automatically be enrolled in the program's 100% renewable option. That means they will pay for electricity hydropower sources generated in upstate New York. The Westchester Power monthly rate for this option is 8.710 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).
2) Standard: Residents can contact Sustainable Westchester any time to switch from the 100% renewable option to the standard option, which will supply electricity from a mix of sources: mostly fossil fuels and a small fraction from renewable. The Westchester Power monthly rate for this option is 7.287 cents per kWh.
3) The last option is to opt out of the program altogether, which would mean they continue getting their electricity largely from fossil fuels. The average Con Edison rate from December 2020 to November 2021 was 7.30 cents per kWh, though that rate isn't predictive of what future rates will be, said Dan Welsh, Westchester Power's program director.
In all three options, residents will still get their bill from Con Edison. Constellation New Energy (CNE) will appear on the bill as an energy service company (ESCO) supplier.
"CNE is providing the electricity, the kilowatt hours. Con Edison is delivering those kilowatt hours and providing all those related services," said Nina Orville, CEO of Sustainable Westchester.
Where the power comes from
In 2020, New York was the third largest producer of hydroelectricity in the U.S., producing 11% of the country's hydroelectricity net generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
But Yonkers' switch to hydroelectricity doesn't necessarily mean the power Yonkers residents get will physically come from hydroelectric generation facilities upstate. Rather, they will pay for the electricity they use while CNE supplies that amount of energy from hydroelectric sources.
"Generators dump electricity into the grid," explained Dan Welsh, Westchester Power's program director, and it is unknown where an individual electron will end up. "We go to our suppliers, we say we want this to be emissions-free clean energy. They're obliged to purchase those on that market for us on our behalf."
Orville said that while the rate residents are automatically enrolled in is higher than last year's average, electricity rates are expected to continue to rise in 2022. Still, there's no guarantee that will be the case, she added.
In the five years the program has been operating, Genovesi said monthly rates have ranged from as low as 5 cents per kWh to as high as 12 cents per kWh, which was the Con Edison rate for the first half of January.
The average Yonkers residential account uses 450 kWh of electricity a month, Welsh said. At last year's average rate of 7.30, using 450 kWh in one month would cost $32.85.
At Westchester Power’s default 100% renewable rate of 8.710, that customer would pay $39.19 for the same amount of electricity in a month. Westchester Power's standard option at the rate of 7.287 cents would cost the same customer $32.79.
With Con Edison's rates spiking in the first half of January, at an average rate of 12 cents, the same customer would pay $54 for their electricity if they opted out of Westchester Power's options.
Opting out option available
Yonkers residents who get their electricity from Con Edison will be automatically enrolled in the program, but can opt out.
Sustainable Westchester encourages people who want to opt out to do so online at: www.sustainablewestchester.org/wp/. But people can also opt out by sending an email to email@example.com (make sure to include the name on the account and the account address). There was also a card in the packet residents received in the mail that could mailed back to opt out.
Lastly, residents can also call 914-242-4725. Genovesi said it's taking about two or three days to return calls because of high call volume.
The deadline to opt out before ever being enrolled in the program is Feb. 9, but residents can still opt out after that any time and it doesn't cost anything.
To learn more
Visit https://sustainablewestchester.org/wp/yonkers/ for a complete list of informational sessions Sustainable Westchester is hosting over zoom throughout February and March.
Tom Zambito contributed to this report.
Contact Diana Dombrowski at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @domdomdiana
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Yonkers' new renewable energy program: Rates, billing, opting out