Changing the Way We Think About Energy: Bringing Local Energy Choice to the Hudson Valley

A clean energy initiative provides a historic opportunity for community empowerment

When we think of environmentalism, we often imagine the activist: someone devoting her life to pollution control or working tirelessly on an advocacy campaign. But as the environmental movement grows (in response to a growing sense of urgency), people are looking for ways to support the green energy transition through simple, daily actions–maybe even just by flicking a light switch in their own homes.

JouleCommunity Power has partnered with Hudson Valley Energy to connect local residents’ everyday electricity usage with a larger, community-led movement promoting clean energy generation. On Wednesday, January 16th, JouleCommunity and Hudson Valley launched Hudson Valley Community Power, marking a local turning point in a national shift towards 100% renewable energy. Participating communities will now be able to choose their electricity supplier for the first time ever: participating in a local community effort while receiving a satisfyingly lower utility bill each month.

Hudson Valley Community Power was created to administer a Community Choice energy program to the region (Community Choice is technically termed as Community Choice Aggregation, or “CCA”.) In New York State, the program was piloted in Westchester County in 2016, and has saved residents a remarkable $15 million on their energy bills to date. Since this success in Westchester, Joule has been working to bring Community Choice to the Hudson Valley.

What is Community Choice?

Community Choice Aggregation is a community-building clean energy program. It encourages municipaliies to select their own electricity supplier, rather than having one automatically assigned. This selection process allows for communities to choose local, green suppliers to light their homes, putting money back into the pockets of residents. The ultimate goal of Community Choice is to motivate residents to engage with all decisions that affect their communities—not just the ones that involve electricity supply.

Community Choice[...] encourages municipalities to select their own electricity supplier, rather than having one automatically assigned. [It] allows for communities to choose local, green suppliers to light their homes, putting money back into the pockets of residents.

As the Community Choice Program Administrator, it is Joule’s goal to spearhead local economic development and save residents money. This will motivate them to participate in other community-led initiatives, in turn changing the local government structure so that municipal leaders will make transparent decisions that reflect the input of local residents. And—of course—if Community Choice can pave the way for new opportunities for residents to save money, that definitely can’t hurt either.

As Jeff Domanski of Hudson Valley Energy said, “Hudson Valley Community Power is truly an historic opportunity – by saying yes to this decision, participating communities are effectively leading a growing movement towards community-led, clean energy programs, empowering other local governments across New York state to take action.”

Joule’s Role

To date, six communities — Beacon, Cold Spring, Marbletown, Philipstown, Fishkill, and the City of Poughkeepsie — have passed local laws enabling them to deploy a Community Choice program, and they have chosen Joule and Hudson Valley Energy to administer that program.

As soon as Joule’s model supply contract is approved, energy suppliers can compete to win a bid that will allow them to team up with Joule serve the Hudson Valley, and then Community Choice can officially begin.

Joule’s Community Choice program is an opportunity for regular people to have a transformative effect on the way we buy, sell, and use energy: connecting individuals to their community and communities to a global movement. With the City of Poughkeepsie now on board and strong roots in the Hudson Valley, Community Choice Aggregation is rapidly gaining momentum.

Caroline Milne