ATHENS — Athens village residents will soon have the choice of lower electric rates, trustees said.
The village board voted on a pricing program through the Community Choice Aggregation Program on May 13. Athens joins the towns of Cairo and New Baltimore and the village of Coxsackie in the program, which partners municipalities with an aggregator that lobbies for lower rates with electric companies.
“We are delighted to be able to catch this sweet spot in the market when electricity rates are quite low, to lock in a low electricity rate for our residents for 24 months starting in August,” Mayor Stephan Bradicich said.
The village has entered an agreement with Good Energy, of Allendale, New Jersey, Trustee Joshua Lipsman said. Good Energy secured a two-year agreement with Constellation at a rate of 5.34 cents per kilowatt hour, he said, a savings of 11% based on current market pricing.
“There is decreased demand for electricity due to COVID,” Lipsman said. Energy costs are also generally lower in the spring because residents are not heating their homes or running air-conditioning.
The program is optional for residents, Lipsman said.
“We will spend the next couple of months educating the public about the program and its benefits, and about how it’s completely optional if they don’t want to participate,” Lipsman said.
The village will use its website, social media, radio and the local newspaper to get the word out, he said. Depending on social-distancing rules, there could also be in-person meetings before the program starts.
“We will be working with Good Energy to come up with a public education campaign to explain to people how to opt out,” he said. “I think we are the first community Good Energy has done during COVID. They usually do some in-person presentation and have an in-person option where you come to village hall to opt out. We want to have an option for people who don’t use the computer.”
The other three municipalities made signed a 17-month agreement in July 2019 with Good Energy.
The statewide program gives more power to the people, Coxsackie Mayor Mark Evans, said last September.
Good Energy was able to secure a rate of 5 cents per kilowatt hour from Constellation, compared to Central Hudson’s average rate of 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour, Evans said.
“It’s a savings of $150 per year for the average homeowner,” he said.
In New Baltimore, the total cost savings for residents is estimated at $58,000 annually, Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso said.
In Cairo, residents are expected to save 10% to 12% on the supply side of their electric bills, former Town Supervisor Daniel Benoit said.
The Community Choice Aggregation Program takes the village one step closer to achieving its designation as a Climate Smart Community, Lipsman said.
“In order to achieve the certification, you have to have a certain number of points,” he said. “Various activities get you points. We have gone through all the items with Cornell Cooperative Extension and it looks like we will in the not-too-distant future have enough points to apply for our certificate.”
One of the final items needed before the village can submit its application is to form a Conservation Advisory Council, Lipsman said.
“The Conservation Advisory Council can be and will be designated as a Climate Smart Committee Task Force,” he said.
The village board will hold a public hearing on forming the committee Wednesday night.
“Assuming the public reception is positive, we will begin to recruit members,” Lipsman said.
The committee will consist of six residents and three village officials. The council would be the first of its kind in Greene County, according to the village board.
“There are two benefits to being a Climate Smart Community,” Lipsman said. “One is being a climate smart community. Everybody, individually and communitywise, is encouraged to do their part to respond to global climate change.”
The designation can also help a community with grant funding, he said.
“Pre-COVID, yes, Climate Smart, got you points for grant money applications that could put you over the top in terms of competitiveness,” Lipsman said, adding that there is some uncertainty about what funding opportunities will look like in the wake of the pandemic.
Across the state, there are 43 bronze certified Climate Smart Communities and three silver certified communities.
Over 300 communities including the towns of Cairo, Hunter, Jewett, Ancram, Austerlitz, Chatham, Copake, Ghent, Hillsdale, Kinderhook, New Lebanon, villages of Catskill, Kinderhook and Philmont and city of Hudson have registered for the program but have not yet been certified.