Want a Clean Energy Future? Build Power With Co-ops

If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 of this 3 part blog series, be sure to go back and read them before reading below.

What I’ve learned over the past 8 years, is that electricity contracts aren’t people focused, but they do want help getting them done. And ideally, they’d like it done right.

  1. We learned we can make the process easier. Technology is still scant in this industry. That’s why we helped 28 contract signers use DocuSign to get all the contracts signed within 2 hours and without wasting hours of the group’s time printing and scanning.

  2. We can help buyers better understand what they’re doing. We’re also focused on transparency and making sure they understand all the risks. We shared our first pass through analysis with members last week, and it made a significant impact in re-shaping how they think about suppliers and who to select. The lowest cost provider didn’t win.

  3. We can listen to concerns, share our sector-wide analysis, and help participants manage risk by sharing detailed contract terms analyses, and in some cases adjusting key provisions. In other cases, we as a cooperative, build good relationships with the supplier -- so that if things go wrong in the future we’ll be able to work it out based on the larger overall relationship.

    One participant in last week’s aggregation wrote:

You made it simple for us to take advantage of these historically low prices…it was all very simple, easy to understand, well communicated and efficient.  Well done!

So the value proposition comes down to (1) convenience -- all electronic contract signing process -- easy to do even from a smart phone, (2) Better information about suppliers, options, how markets work, and a “true price” analysis (contract price + “unexpected” pass-through charges), and (3) Risk mitigation because of the leverage from the group and the co-op’s relationships with suppliers.

We’re now more than 80,000,000 kWh per year under contract and aiming to grow 20,000,000 kWh each year.

We’re beginning to build market power. Our strategy is to build a new kind of vehicle to act and make change in electricity markets. If we want to really accelerate change and transition to renewable power, let’s build power at key leverage points: with the actual energy suppliers and with the Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) who regulate both the utilities and the suppliers.

Do ordinary customers have a seat at the table?

Right now, the answer is regrettably no. Frankly, we’re not organized enough. Utilities weigh in and significantly underfunded customer advocate groups like the Office of the People’s Counsel and the Consumer Utility Board -- try to stand up, but most often they get steam rolled.

Occasionally an environmental group like Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign will get laser focused on a strategy that works and apply great leverage at key PUC decisions. These results have been extraordinary. They’ve stopped 200+ coal power plants from getting licensed and effectively shut down hundreds more.

What if we had a third of the market in a state organized and demanding a better balance between lower rates, reliability, and long-term environmental sustainability?

What if we asked the PUC / PSC to weigh in more regularly to actually enforce renewables legislation in real ways that accelerate renewables development? Or change utility incentives and profit margins if key reliability and customer and environmental goals aren’t met?

Could we do it? There is enormous potential as the Beyond Coal and other similar campaigns have demonstrated.

What would you advocate for?

At CPA we build a relational culture inviting participants to become leaders in our work.

At CPA we’re building this market power in DC, MD, CT and exploring MA, TX, OH, IN, IL, PA, NJ, and NY.

Do you want to experience how much easier it can be to buy electricity?

Do you want to be part of building new cooperatives that not only advocate for customers but offer an opportunity to accelerate renewables development far more than wind REC purchases?   Do you want to shape the future thinking?

Join us for our upcoming group aggregations in the mid-atlantic and northeast.

We look forward to talking about how co-ops can better shape and accelerate our energy transition.

Interested in joining our movement? Simply fill out this form or send a quick email to Boris@cpa.coop with your most recent utility bill to explore this opportunity with our cooperative. New participants are not required to be members to participate and save. While we harness group leverage, each individual organization always retains the power to make the best decision for their organization.

Lauren Greenspan