Peggy Kurtz, community coordinator of Joule Community Power, appeared at Walden’s November 14 board meeting and educated the trustees about Joule’s energy program, its process, and its benefits.
Joule Community Power, an energy broker company, helps municipalities transition to greener, more affordable power sources by connecting them and negotiating with energy suppliers. Through its Community Choice Aggregation program, Joule assembles several municipalities under one buying group, giving them the power and leverage to choose a supplier that will best fit their residents’ and businesses’ needs. Households that do not want to switch suppliers can simply opt out.
“Through CCA, municipalities essentially create a large buying group through which residents and small businesses may purchase the energy for their electricity. Basically, municipalities can leverage the buying power of that large group,” Kurtz explained.
“CCA moves that choice down, and now the state is actively encouraging communities to take up that choice so that municipal leaders may choose what’s best for their own communities,” she continued.
Some of CCA’s benefits include cleaner energy, potential cost savings, consumer protection and flexible supplier choices. Kurtz used Rockland County as an example to explain how much money residents could save under CCA.
Currently, Joule works with 56 municipalities in New York State that comprise over 800,000 households and have saved $20 million since 2019. Municipalities in Hudson Valley that participate in CCA include New Paltz, Saugerties, Gardiner, Poughkeepsie, Phillipstown, Marbletown, Nelsonville, Red Hook, and Rhinebeck.
Kurtz also mentioned that Joule supports New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a law established in 2019 that mandates substantial changes in the state’s energy grid by 2030 and 2040.
“In 2019, in response to climate change, New York State passed groundbreaking climate legislation, which actually mandates an unprecedented transformation of the state’s electric grid. The electric grid must be powered 70% by renewable energy by 2030, so that’s six years away. And it must be 100% carbon-free by 2040,” Kurtz explained. “This program we’re discussing today helps communities take a major step in the direction of these goals.”
Trustee Becky Pearson asked about an ongoing lawsuit involving New Paltz, Joule, and an energy supplier; Kurtz asserted that the supplier is to blame, and despite the situation, New Paltz and other municipalities that participated still saved money.
Trustee Patricia Maher asked if the program’s contract is nonbinding for the supplier, to which Kurtz answered no.
“Is it also nonbinding for the supplier?” Maher asked.
“No. Once the contract is signed, at the end of the process, which generally takes about 8 months, then it becomes a contract. And that contract is vetted carefully for the municipality by Joule. And then I’m sure it’s also vetted carefully by your attornies as well as the attornies for the other municipalities that would be in it,” Kurtz said.
Trustee Ralph Garrison asked if opt-in rates affect whether or not the energy deal goes through, to which Kurtz clarified that the suppliers keep the rates in mind when developing their bids.
“So you need a high percentage of people to opt into this before you even consider coming to the village, right?” Garrison asked.
“No. The suppliers, when they make that bid at the end of the process, they have an idea of the typical range of opt-outs in any program. It generally ranges from five to 20%, and so they build that into their rates. So no, if a larger than average number of people opt out, the bid is already accepted,” Kurtz said. “We’re essentially investing money into the community, doing the work, hoping that it will work.”
John Ramos, the village mayor, concluded the board’s comments by asking about the program’s sustainability, such as being at risk of losing its supplier. While she could not delve into the technical side of the program, Kurtz assured that Joule aims to protect municipalities and residents from higher rates.
“How are we going to sustain ourselves as homeowners, as a community, when one day, that company decides to ‘hey, we can’t do this anymore’ and shuts us down, and we’re forced to go to the most expensive carrier?” Ramos asked.
“I know that they are now developing and about to launch a new kind of rate that will sort of be more flexible without being just ‘anything is possible,’” Kurtz replied. The whole idea is to protect people from the volatility of the energy market.”