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Brookhaven residents may have chance to choose new natural gas supplier

If successful, Brookhaven Town's community choice gas program

If successful, Brookhaven Town's community choice gas program would be the first on Long Island and would automatically convert tens of thousands of natural gas customers in the town to the new supplier. Credit: Barry Sloan

Brookhaven residents may soon have a choice for lower-cost natural gas if the town’s efforts to contract with an outside supplier through a state program are successful.

The town has issued bids for a third-party gas supply through a newly launched plan called Community Choice Aggregation, a state-backed program that allows communities to pool their demand to get cheaper or greener energy. The program is also available for electric service, but towns such as Brookhaven, Southampton and Hempstead have expressed frustration with LIPA’s efforts to facilitate it. LIPA says it’s working to address the issues.

Under Brookhaven’s community choice gas program, which would be the first on Long Island, tens of thousands of natural gas customers in the town would be automatically converted to the new supplier, with all having the ability to opt-out if they choose, the town said in a statement. The town has already passed enabling legislation for the program, and chosen an administrator in Good Energy LLP, of Manhattan.

The plan "could result in cheaper, cleaner energy use for all our residents and businesses in Brookhaven, and would give them the opportunity to seek an alternative utility provider for the first time," Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said in the statement.

Customers would still receive delivery from National Grid, which owns the pipes that run through neighborhoods, as well as their gas bills. The program was ushered in by 2016 regulations from the state Public Service Commission, which regulates National Grid. LIPA, which isn’t regulated by the PSC, adopted Community Choice rules on its own this year.

National Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said the company has for years "supported customer choice when it comes to purchasing natural gas supplies from authorized energy services companies."

"Customers need to determine for themselves whether they can save money buying gas from other providers based on their usage and other circumstance," Ladd said, In any case, she added, "If a customer chooses to purchase gas from a supplier, National Grid will continue to deliver the gas, maintain the network and other facilities, and respond 24-hours a day to any emergencies."

It’s unclear just how much lower a new supplier would be able to provide gas to Brookhaven customers, if they are able to do so.

"By pooling demand, communities build clout necessary to negotiate lower rates with private suppliers and are able to choose cleaner energy," Brookhaven officials said in a statement.

Brookhaven will review bids for a potential supplier to determine "if there is a cost-savings benefit" to town residents and businesses, and then determine whether to sign a contract on behalf of all customers.

Residents aren’t required to sign any contracts and can terminate their participation "at any time with no early termination or exit fee," Brookhaven officials said. The program uses no public funding.

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