In April, the quad-village mayors agreed upon a challenge to see which municipality could enroll the most residents in Con Edison’s GridRewards program.

GridRewards participants will receive cash rewards for reducing their energy usage during peak demand periods. 

By the start of this year’s rewards period on April 30, Dobbs Ferry had 129 enrollees, followed by Hastings with 113, Irvington with 86, and Ardsley with 47.  

If sign-ups were measured as a percentage of the villages’ populations, Hastings would win with 1.44 percent, followed by Irvington with 1.33, Dobbs Ferry with 1.17, and Ardsley with .81 percent. 

GridRewards participants download an app to their phones and agree to respond to Con Ed’s text alerts during peak periods by reducing their energy usage. 

Drawing less power helps the utility avoid relying on old, inefficient power plants to meet the extra demand. The app tracks energy and carbon usage, and how much money a customer is spending or saving.

Rather than giving a discount on a utility bill, Con Ed will send customers a check before the end of the year. During the pilot program last year, five peak events produced an average of $200 in cash rewards. 

“You can have any energy supply company... and participate in GridRewards,” Sustainable Westchester’s Maria Genovesi clarified on May 7. Genovesi is director of marketing, communication, and outreach for the nonprofit local government collaborative that fosters renewable energy initiatives.

“You do need to be in Con Ed delivery territory and have a Con Ed account or receive a Con Ed bill, though, to participate, and have a Con Ed smart meter, which 99-plus percent of the county does now have,” she added.

There’s no fee to join, and no penalty for ignoring the texts or quitting the program. Also, once enrolled in GridRewards there’s no need to do it again, ever.

The program benefits municipalities as well. Those with 10 or more GridRewards participants earn $5,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to be used for any clean-energy purpose. 

Participating in GridRewards also added 200 points to each village’s score in NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Community rankings. As of May 7, Hastings was leading the state, with 5,500 points.

The primary goal of GridRewards is to reduce a municipality’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions by using less fossil fuel and placing less stress on the electric grid. Those who sign up after April 30 will be enrolled in the program for 2022. 

“Even if you didn’t sign up, it’s still really important to reduce your energy usage, especially on those high peak days,” Hastings Mayor Niki Armacost noted on May 3. 

“The price of electricity is pegged to peak-day energy usage, so if we all reduce usage on the days that are predicted to be peak days, not only do we lessen the load on the grid, but we influence how the price of electricity is determined,” she explained. “This initiative lets us work together to reduce the load on the grid — which in turn will peg the price of electricity at a lower rate — reduce our own carbon footprint and... in a fairytale twist, we will actually get sent money for doing all that.”

Dobbs Ferry Mayor Vincent Rossillo was a gracious winner, thanking the other mayors for participating in the contest, especially Armacost for initiating it. Rossillo can create his own prize. 

“Even though Dobbs Ferry won, all the villages gained by getting grant money and helping reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” he stated. “The residents of Dobbs Ferry have always been aware of the importance of playing an active role in the effort to address climate change. Our Sustainability Task Force has been in the forefront of guiding the village to a more environmentally responsible lifestyle.”

Dobbs Ferry’s commitment to environmentalism is manifest in its early adoption of the State’s Climate Smart Community program, its Climate Action Plan, and its designation by NYSERDA as one of the first seven Clean Energy Communities. 

Past mayoral challenges, their purpose long forgotten, had led to the losers being required to don their competitors’ spiritwear at an official function. Rossillo thanked the village as a whole for supporting the environment. 

“Thanks to their efforts,” he said, “I don’t have to be embarrassed by wearing another village’s colors at a board meeting.”

Those without a smartphone can enroll in GridRewards through sustainablewestchester.org/gridrewards 

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