COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County lawmakers were urged Wednesday to consider linking the county with a program that seeks lower utility rates for residents in participating municipalities.
The Community Choice Aggregation program is being offered by the Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance, a local development corporation set up in 2001 to help local governments get the most competitive prices they can for electric and natural gas.
The new program would extend the power of aggregate buying to residential users of electricity and gas.
The potential benefits of the program were outlined by Ronald Feldstein, MEGA’s president and a former Otsego County representative, and Louise Gava, a MEGA project director with a background in aggregated energy supply and sustainable energy for higher education institutions.
Gava noted that, since utility deregulation in the 1990s, utility customers are no longer required to purchase power directly from the utilities.
“It’s really about returning value to the residents and and small commercial entities,” she said in explaining what called one of the prime benefits of participating in Community Choice Aggregation.
Local governments, she said, would be in the lead, and MEGA would assist in reviewing bids and helping the municipalities determine where it would get the best value for its investment.
“This is an opportunity to aggregate residents,” she said, pointing up the difference in joining together the buying power of government entities.
Gava said there would be a new layer of consumer protection because residents wouldn’t have to worry about sifting through at times confusing offers from energy service companies that have been aggressive with telemarketing campaigns aimed at signing up customers. That vetting of competing offers would be done by MEGA, she said..
In January, MEGA submitted a petition to the state Public Service Commission asking approval to begin a CCA demonstration program among interested municipalities, Gava said.
MEGA advised the PSC that it has already fielded dozens of letters of support from municipalities interested in participating in the CCA.
MEGA also advised the state’s utility watchdog that its affiliation with the New York State Association of Counties, the state Conference of Mayors and the state Association of School Business officials make it “uniquely qualified to take the lead in creating a successful Community Choice Aggregation Program.”