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Albany council passes law creating energy choice program

Photo: Will Waldron

A reduced Common Council voted 8-1, with two members voting present, to approve a new law on Monday that will automatically enroll city residents in a program that relies more on renewable energy sources to power their homes.

The program, known as Community Choice Aggregation, allows local governments to band together to negotiate prices from alternative energy sources through the Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance. The electricity and billing would still run through National Grid.

“The idea is we’re going to save people money and move toward 100 percent renewable energy,” said Councilwoman Cathy Fahey, who sponsored the legislation. “The goal is to beat the price of the average energy bill.”

Fahey said it won't affect residents who rely on the Home Energy Assistance Program or those who have contracts with energy service companies. Additionally the city can back out at a later date if it doesn't believe it is getting a fair deal.

Homeowners and small businesses that don’t want to be a part of the program will have to choose to opt-out of the program. Residents can opt-out at any time with no penalty.

Under the law, a newly created board would issue a request for proposals to energy service companies to submit bids. The winning bid and contract would be approved by the board, which will include two members of the council, two members of the city administration and the chair of the city’s sustainability committee. That contract would lock in the electricity rate for about two years.

Councilmembers Alfredo Balarin, Derek Johnson and Michael O’Brien raised various objections to the program. Johnson was the lone vote against the program while Balarin and O'Brien voted "present."

Balarin said he was concerned about handing the power to approve a contract that would affect city residents to an unelected board. Balarin asked if the council could include an amendment that would allow any bid to go before the full council.

“I think this is something that the full council should have a say in,” he said during the council caucus.

A representative from the Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance told Balarin it would be difficult to hold on to the bid until the full council could vote because prices for bulk electricity vary often.

Councilmembers Joyce Love, Jahmel Robinson, Jack Flynn and Judy Doesschate were not present.


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