SARANAC LAKE — The village of Saranac Lake is pursuing a program to let its residents and businesses purchase more renewable energy through their monthly bills.
The village board passed a local law on Monday enabling a Community Choice Aggregation agreement after strong public support.
New York is one of seven states allowing CCA agreements.
Essentially, by gathering — or aggregating — all the electricity users in the Saranac Lake community, the collective would be able to purchase renewable power at a cheaper rate than individuals would be able to alone.
All residents and small businesses who have a National Grid account already would be automatically opted in. They could choose to opt out at any time for no cost.
National Grid would still deliver electricity and maintain its infrastructure, but it would not sell electricity to those who opt in to CCA.
People would still pay their bills to National Grid, but the electricity passing through those lines would be purchased from different companies offering more renewable energy sources, essentially allowing the community to choose what energy industries it supports.
On Tuesday, the New York Independent System Operator’s real-time dashboard, which tracks energy usage in the state, was showing that 21% of the state’s energy was coming from renewable sources like wind and hydro power. Around 21% was coming from nuclear power and the rest — 58% — was coming from fossil fuels.
Village Manager John Sweeney said the next step now is to contract with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for a CCA administrator who will collect public comment and evaluate proposals from renewable energy companies to see if their rates are comparable to National Grid’s.
The village board will have the final say on whether to accept the proposal.
Sweeney estimates this whole process will take around a year.
The CCA contract would lock in a rate, instead of being variable, as it is now. This could be good or bad because the price of that fixed rate fluctuates. Advocates for the CCA said this would be a “consumer protection measure.”
Several members of the public showed up to the village board’s Monday meeting to support the board’s approval of the CCA.
“It’s great to live in a community that takes our impact on the climate seriously,” former village board member and former Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Patrick Murphy said.
He referenced the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2021 report, released in August, assessing that human-created climate change is warming the planet, increasing natural disasters and making them more deadly, and getting worse, faster.
Dwight Stevenson, a teacher at Saranac Lake High School, said evidence of climate change could be easily seen in Saranac Lake this summer, when smoke from wildfires to the Northwest floated over here, reducing visibility, clouding the sky and, at times, leading the state to issue air quality warnings.
“This action is on brand for a decidedly different future than that which awaits us if we don’t act on climate change and pursue renewable energy,” Stevenson said.
Megan Stevenson, a land protection manager with the Adirondack Land Trust, said it is important to make energy decisions locally.
Local activist David Lynch pointed out that New York is the country’s second largest producer of maple syrup — the first is Vermont. He said one-third of the state’s syrup is harvested in the Adirondacks. With climate change bringing unpredictable winter weather and overall warmer temperatures, this could go away, he said.
Carolyn Koestner gave support for the CCA from the village’s Climate Smart Task Force.
Rebecca Halter, a stewardship specialist with the Adirondack Land Trust, said the CCA allows the village to put in the work to research the best energy options for all of its citizens.
“Future generations thank you,” local activist Trevor Sussey told the board.