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I’m a Rochester native, an RG&E employee and I’m against government-controlled power



I’m a Rochester native, an RG&E employee and I’m against government-controlled power


You have likely heard calls by Metro Justice and others to take over Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) and install a government-controlled utility in its place. Peoples’ frustrations with RG&E have been mounting since early last year, and those frustrations are warranted. The company’s customers have experienced a slew of billing issues in the last year, paired with unprecedented wait times when they try to call customer service and get help. As a Rochester native, growing up in Brighton, a customer myself, and a 19 -year employee of the company, I take these concerns to heart, but I know government—controlled power is not the right answer for the people of Rochester.

RG&E recognizes and will not shy away from our issues, which have their genesis in the pandemic and its subsequent staffing challenges. We have a plan to improve and we are working tirelessly to execute our plan; results will continue to become apparent to our customers. In the gap between our customer’s frustrations and the company’s fixes, room for a small, but very vocal group of activists to float a seemingly simple alternate narrative was created: the idea that a public-owned utility would be cheaper, more reliable, and the answer to every complaint it can think up about the utility that has served this region for 175 years.

Of course, the truth is not so simple and Metro Justice’s “solution,” is no solution at all. The truth is, a public-owned utility is actually a government-controlled utility. Do we really want to add another vital responsibility to our local government officials to manage beyond law enforcement, schools, water infrastructure, etc.?  Rather than being a cheaper alternative to RG&E, buying out the utility would likely cost our customers billions of dollars – money the city and the county just don’t have; therefore requiring a huge amount of public borrowing.

Additionally, RG&E now pays $165 million annually in taxes right here in Rochester — money that is used by local municipalities for infrastructure, public safety, and education. A government-controlled utility will not be paying those taxes. Government control of a utility does not guarantee lower prices. Metro Justice points to other municipal electric utilities such as Fairport Electric as example of cheaper power.  However, what they do not tell you is that Fairport Electric and other municipal utilities formed decades ago and are able to purchase their power from the New York Power Authority at rates that are lower than on the open energy market.  Since the power available from the New York Power Authority is limited, it’s unlikely that they would be able to meet the demands of power needed for RG&E customers. Do not allow Metro Justice to mislead you with only part of the story.

The more than 800 local employees of RG&E are dedicated and hardworking members of the community. I can say that with authority, as they are my coworkers. They understand, as well as anyone, the current inflationary pressures on everything from milk to eggs to electricity supply, and how that’s causing strain on the pocketbooks of families across the Greater Rochester area. They’re our families, too. Unfortunately, even as we work to resolve customer issues and restore RG&E to its old adage of being “always at your service,” there are those few who look to leverage these problems for the sake of a political agenda. Don’t forget that the people who run Metro Justice took on Kodak and put forth an anti-police agenda in the not-so-distant past. Are these the people we want to decide what happens with our electric and gas service?

Put simply, the grass is not always greener. RG&E’s customers pay among the lowest delivery rates in New York State. Each RG&E bill has two components: commodity and delivery. Commodity prices reflect the cost of RG&E purchasing power from energy producers on the open market and RG&E passes those costs to our customers. RG&E has no control over setting the price and receives zero profit on any increase pushed by the energy producers. Unfortunately, due to several factors, including the war in Ukraine as well as profit-taking by electric generating companies, commodity prices have skyrocketed, causing what customers surely see: higher utility bills.

RG&E has several programs to help our customers, particularly our most vulnerable customers. This winter, we voluntarily suspended late payment charges. We have also provided $45,036,805 million in relief to residents and businesses who fell behind on their bills because of the pandemic. We have widely advertised the array of programs to assist those who need help paying their energy bills, and we strongly encourage our customers to contact us if they need assistance.

A big argument from Metro Justice is RG&E’s lack of local presence and regulatory compliance. But the truth is, RG&E’s 175-year record of safe, reliable service to Rochester is irrefutable, and its 800 local employees provide their own proof of community presence.

The company also invests locally, providing nearly $11.6M in economic development grants to 230 business and community organizations since 2019. Those grants have led to more than 9,700 new jobs in Rochester. Metro Justice’s claim that because RG&E has a Spanish-owned parent company, its employees aren’t in the community, is an outright lie.

Sometimes the people who shout the loudest have the voice that penetrates, and Metro Justice is a group with a megaphone in our community, especially as RG&E billing issues came to light over the past year. It’s important to examine the facts and realize that a reactionary measure like Government Controlled Power might not be the benefit to the people of Rochester that it appears on the surface. RG&E has a long history in our community, and I, for one, don’t want to see it disappear from the landscape of our proud, local businesses.

Jeffrey A. Rosenbloom is vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for RG&E