A move toward carbon-free electricity is growing in Rochester area

A move toward carbon-free electricity is growing in Rochester area

The power of bulk purchasing and carbon-free sources of energy are factors behind a wave of decisions local municipalities are making about buying electricity.

In the Rochester area, several communities have already agreed to engage with a community choice aggregator — an approved go-between that seeks power from non-carbon-producing sources of energy, such as wind, solar and nuclear power.

Brighton, Brockport, Irondequoit, Pittsford, Victor and Geneva have all agreed to go this route. Rochester’s City Council is considering the same.

Before last year, residential and business customers concerned about global warming basically had three choices. They could invest in and install their own electricity generation, such as solar panels. They could use information on their utility bills to opt out of the general mix of power production (including burning fossil fuels) and opt into forms of electricity that don’t add carbon to the atmosphere. Or they could rely on their utility companies to choose for them.

“Any consumer can choose where they want to pursue the electrons from,” said Sue Hughes-Smith, a principal of Roctricity, the local, administrative partner for JouleCommunity Power, the only community choice aggregator approved to operate in New York.  “We do the education piece. JouleCommunity Power will do the negotiating.”

A CCA essentially adds a fourth choice involving a municipality.

“This moves the decision from utilities to government,” Hughes-Smith said. With an entire community’s utility bills in hand, the CCA can seek bulk power deals. “Now you have a large number of households going to the energy market as one single voice,” she said. Working together under a single CCA, several communities can also influence the source of the power, not just the price, she said.

“Roctricity is interested in carbon-free energy,” Hughes-Smith said, so Joule will seek electricity produced by wind, solar, nuclear and other forms that don’t create carbon, she said. Consumers can still opt out, though. A spokesman for the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, which has been promoting more sustainable forms of energy, said when a CCA program is initiated in a community, utility customers will receive instructions on how to choose not to participate if they wish.

Joule Assets has US offices in Westchester County, NY, and Oregon; and European offices in Belgium and Italy. Roctricity was formed by Rochester-area people who have been advocating for cleaner sources of energy with the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition.

Roctricity has several upcoming public meetings — two are required in each community that decides to go with a CCA — to share information about the change in electricity purchasing in local communities. They are:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 3, for Brighton, 7 to 8 p.m. at Rustic Village Apartments, at the complex’s entertainment center across from parking lot 12.
  • Thursday, Dec. 5, for Pittsford, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Pittsford Village Hall, 21 North Main St., Pittsford.
  • Wednesday, December 11, for Pittsford, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Pittsford Village Hall.

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