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Friday 30 September 2022
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What Rochester’s Switch to Green Energy Means for You

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Rochester’s energy is going green.

The city has been working on Rochester Community Power for several years and residents will be joining the switch in September.

Within the past week, the city began sending letters to residents to explain that they will be enrolled in the community choice aggregation program that buys 100% renewable energy at a rate that is fixed for two years.

Residents (with some exceptions) and small businesses will get their energy from a company called Constellation New Energy. However, they’ll still pay their bill through RG&E and call that company for problems with service. Residents can opt out, the letter has instructions and answers to frequently asked questions.

Information sessions are scheduled via Zoom for 7 p.m. July 13 at www.bit.ly/Rochester13July and 7 pm. July 14 at www.bit.ly/Rochester14July. For more information, call Roctricity at (585) 244-0244.

Minority Reporter wanted more details and talked with Anne Spaulding, manager of environmental quality for the city.

What is the city doing?

We’re launching our new community choice aggregation (CCA) program, which is named Rochester Community Power. This is a program that’s authorized by a local law, and the (state) Public Service Commission allows these programs. It aggregates the purchasing power of the citizens of Rochester. So a large pool of people (can) obtain a favorable pricing. … It really gives the power supply control to the municipality, which represents the people. … It’s not one of those companies that may be calling people to try and get them to switch. The communication that will come will be this letter. You’re not going to get phone calls. … The city isn’t expending any funds on this program, so it’s not taking away from any anti-violence or any other initiatives that the city is working on.

Why am I automatically enrolled rather than have to opt in?

Part of the CCA law is that the local municipality has to have to pass a local law, allowing us to do this. We had to do a public outreach period. We also had to allow people to opt out if they don’t wish to participate. Basically the letter announces a program and says, hey, if you don’t want to participate, you can opt out before it starts. Or by the way, you can also opt out any other time you want to. And then you can also opt back in if you want to as well, with no fees.

Is anyone who pays an RGE bill eligible?

People who are on assistance programs like HEAP are not eligible because of the Public Service Commission’s rules. People who don’t get their electricity supply right now through RGE, they’re not automatically switched.

Why am I just hearing about this now?

We started talking about this in 2016, 2017. There were a whole bunch of steps we had to go through before we could initiate the program.

So is the city in the business of making electricity?

The city hired an administrator for this program, which is Joule Community Power. And they’re working with a local partner, which is Roctricity. On our behalf, they put out a bid for renewable electricity and we received the bid back and we selected the most favorable bid, which was through Constellation New Energy.

What do you mean by favorable? Based only on price?

It’s mostly price. We did want 100% renewable electricity sourced from New York state. And we wanted it to be a price that was at least 15% better than the average person could get if they’re just wanting to purchase renewable electricity on their own. … It’s economy of scale.

Is there guaranteed savings?

There’s not a guaranteed savings. What there is, is a fixed price. So there’s certainty. Normal RGE supply rates are variable.

What is the advantage?

The benefit to the consumer would be hopefully a lower or at least fixed rate for two years and then improvement to the environment.

Where will the power come from?

It’s all within the state. It is a mix of hydroelectric, wind and solar. So 100% renewable. As far as what specific generation locations it comes from, we don’t have that specific information because it’s basically purchased through the energy supply company, but it is 100% hydro, wind and solar.

Could someone get renewable energy on their own?

Energy supply companies are out looking for customers on their own. There are ways that people could have done that. The advantage of doing it this way for someone who cares about renewable energy is an aggregation of everybody. So the city of Rochester has this large pool of customers all together. So on behalf of that large pool, we’ve put out this bid.

Rochester is the largest city in the state doing this. Why is that important?

We have obviously a larger aggregation of people. So we’ll be a model for the rest of the state. And one of the great benefits of the program is using 100% renewable electricity is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fighting climate change, which is part of our city’s climate action plan. So it’ll have a bigger impact reducing greenhouse gas emissions because we’re a larger municipality.

How will we know much reduction?

We will know how much power is supplied through the program. So we’ll know how many kilowatt hours of renewable energy were provided through the program. And there’s actually an EPA calculator that you can use to convert that to greenhouse gas emissions reduction. So we can actually report out that information.

In announcing the CCA, Mayor Lovely Warren has said that renewable energy can help with jobs. How?

Because it’s locally sourced, it will spur greater development of local, renewable resources, which can, in turn, create jobs. One of the other parts of the program that we will be developing is our energy efficiency, improvement programs. Those by default really are local because if you’re improving the energy efficiency of your home, you’re hiring a local contractor and then there’s more demand for those services. It’s not developed yet, but we’re planning on including energy efficiency programs as part of our CCA as an added benefit.