Gillen proposes vote on alternative natural gas providers

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Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen is proposing a town vote to pursue cheaper natural gas providers. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen is proposing a vote that would allow the town to seek natural gas alternatives to National Grid’s residential and small business service. 

“My administration is always looking for ways to provide financial relief to our residents and save them money,” Gillen said in a statement. 

Gillen’s plan for the town is to pursue what is known as a Community Choice Aggregation program, which would give residents the opportunity to get natural gas from an alternative provider. 

Her office said energy markets in New York were deregulated in 1998, giving towns in the state the opportunity to pursue CCA programs. Westchester has joined a similar program which the Town of Hempstead says has saved that county an estimated $15 million for 130,000 ratepayers. 

The aim of a CCA program, according to Gillen’s office, is to reduce the supply cost of natural gas by procuring it cheaper via a third party bidding process. All eligible residents and businesses would be automatically enrolled but would be able to return to National Grid’s service and pricing at any time. 

The town projects that this proposal would affect 174,000 residential homes and small businesses and aim for the programs to save between 5 percent  and 8 percent on natural gas bills each month. 

“The anticipated savings will effectively equate to a free month of natural gas for homeowners and small businesses,” Gillen said. 

The resolution will be voted on at an Aug. 6 town board meeting. The town would then enter a competitive bidding process in which an alternative gas provider would be chosen with the expectation that an alternative provider could be available as early as the winter. 

Gillen’s office said that with this agreement, ratepayers would be receiving the same bill with the same level of service, but the price would be lower. 

National Grid media representative Domenick Graziani said in a statement, “We fully support customers’ right to choose a natural gas supplier. It’s our obligation to secure gas supply at the best possible cost for them.”

If the vote is approved, the town would pursue and select a CCA administrator after the evaluation of pricing and services. The town would then have to present an implementation plan to the state’s public service commission. 

The town would also have to request data from National Grid to assess natural gas usage for eligible residents and businesses. It would then be able to go out for competitive bidding to secure lower pricing from an energy services company. While an ESCO is a company that would sell gas at a different price, National Grid will still be the distributor delivering gas to a resident. 

“No matter who the gas supplier is, we will still deliver the gas to customers’ homes and businesses. Customers pay exactly what we pay for supply – it’s just a pass-through cost on their bill. National Grid’s delivery rates, however, would still apply,” Graziani said.

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