Marbletown, a town that covers an area of 55 square miles and has a population of 5,500 people, recently joined the Renewable Highlands Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program supported by New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative. Despite being a small town in New York, it has adopted a 100% renewable energy future plan that is also aimed at being profitable.
This town has a community-choice aggregation policy and lacks natural gas, making it a suitable destination for achieving 100% renewable energy at a reduced cost. The CCA will replace the town’s electric utility – Central Hudson – as the default electricity provider and will procure electricity generation for the town. However, Central Hudson will continue to be involved in electricity delivery, service, and billing. Customers will also have the option to opt out of the program. But it is expected that they would not do so, considering that electricity might be available to them at a reduced price.
If the CCA is not able to obtain electricity on their profitable terms, the town can leave the CCA at no cost. On the other hand, if they are able to achieve their terms, the majority of electricity that is used by the residents will be procured through renewable energy sources at low costs.
Another aspect that has enabled this town to take up plans for renewable energy is its lack of natural gas. This naturally allows Marbletown to cost-effectively move towards all-electric buildings. Marbletown also has advantages in its transition to electric transport – being located at the center of Ulster County, where the government has been a leader in the installation of EV charging stations. Efforts are being made to ease this transition with several other aids. For instance, the town has been working with neighboring areas on the installation of EV charging stations.
There are a few hurdles too, in this shift towards renewable energy. Aiming to achieve 100% renewable energy during winter when heating gets loaded might prove to be an obstacle. The town gets only 9 hours of daylight in winter, which combined with a lower sun angle, will lead to solar installations producing much less energy. This creates a seasonal mismatch.
Higher demand for electricity in winter, along with lower solar production will create a problem in achieving this goal. To counter this, those renewable energy resources should be considered that are able to produce enough electricity during the coldest winter months. The state is also thinking about deploying 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind and importing more hydropower from Quebec. Marbletown has no wind resources that can catch the interest of wind power developers. Apart from solar energy, the other two locally available renewable energy sources in Marbletown are hydropower and biomass.
Some of the steps that the town has already taken –
- An inventory of energy use was completed
- A third of the town’s streetlights were removed and replaced by LEDs
- EV charging stations have been installed
- Obtained a grant for the energy retrofit for the community center
- Became a part of Renewable Highlands CCA
- LED lighting retrofit at the town Highway Department
- 16 residential solar installations
- To connect local non-taxable organizations with solar developers who are willing to lease their rooftop for solar projects
- To work on upgrading the local utility-owned hydropower plant in order to enhance production and analyze the feasibility of certain small hydropower installations
- Ban on natural gas connections and pipelines
- Modifying the cost of building permits to favor electrification and building efficiency and also to give preference to heat pumps over air conditioners that lack the heating capability.
- Enabling the set up of community solar on municipal property and local non-profit organizations by coordinating with solar installers
- To encourage local installers of solar energy units