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City locks in renewable energy supplies for residents 

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Starting Sept. 1, city of Rochester residents will get their electricity entirely from renewable sources unless they opt out of the initiative that’s enabling the shift.

This week, city officials announced the launch of Rochester Community Power, which is using the state’s community choice aggregation program to procure power from a supplier on behalf of the 80,000 residential, small business, and municipal electrical customers with Rochester Gas & Electric accounts. The idea behind community choice aggregation is to give communities leverage to lower energy costs and shift to cleaner sources of electricity.

“Community choice aggregation” is clunky to say and its concept difficult to process. But the bottom line of the program is this: residential and small commercial consumers might pay less or might pay more for their power in any given month, but 100 percent of it will be renewable electricity sourced from as close to Rochester as possible.

Through the program, residential customers will pay  $0.058 per kilowatt hour and small commercial consumers will pay $0.05877 per kilowatt hour, both of which are fixed prices. Rochester Gas & Electric charges a variable rate which over the past 30 days averaged $0.0438217 per kilowatt hour for residential customers.

Rochester Gas & Electric remains responsible for delivery, repair service, and billing.

“I am very excited to see our community choice aggregation program reach the point where we can now show our residents how it can help them save and preserve the environment at the same time,” Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement.

The city is sending out letters to households and businesses explaining how to opt out of the community choice aggregation program if they so choose.

Previously, the city hired Joule Community Power to administer the community choice aggregation program, while local firm Roctricity has handled public outreach, education, and customer service functions. Roctricity is a company that was formed by several key local advocates for community choice aggregation.

The city and its partners selected Constellation, a national energy and energy solutions provider, as its power supplier and entered into a two-year contract with the company. Through the life of that contract, officials expect to reduce city-wide greenhouse gas emissions by more than 450,000 metric tons — the equivalent of the carbon that would be drawn out of the air by a forest 23 times the size of Rochester.

Local climate activists have pushed hard for the city to implement community choice aggregation.

“This is a great example of a systemic climate solution,” said Abigail McHugh-Grifa, executive director of the Climate Solutions Accelerator of the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region, formerly the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition.

Soon after the state established the mechanism for aggregation in 2016, city officials said they were interested. But before officials would advance the initiative, however, they wanted to resolve a technical issue around a utility tax, which was a source of revenue for the city. That has since happened.

Rochester will be the largest city in New York to establish a community choice aggregation program. Several Monroe County towns are also in various stages of setting up their own community choice aggregation programs. Brighton, for example, has also contracted with Joule and Roctricity to handle aspects of the program, which offers town residents a 100 percent renewable electricity supply.

On May 26, Penfield officials selected Good Energy to administer the town’s new community choice aggregation program, which will pursue a clean and renewable energy supply for residents..

“Now we need all the other municipalities in the area to follow Rochester’s lead,” McHugh-Grifa said.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

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