Premier Packaging to expand, add 37 jobs

Premier Packaging Corp. plans to move into a 105,000-square-foot, newly constructed facility in Wiregrass Business Park in the town of Henrietta.

The company, which provides paper board packaging to some of the country’s largest digital photofinishing, food packaging and medical device companies, also plans to purchase new machinery and equipment. Premier Packaging has committed to creating up to 37 new jobs as part of the expansion project, while retaining 52 jobs.

“The Greater Rochester New York region’s packaging assets and expertise, along with a competitive cost of doing business, made our community the perfect location for Premier Packaging Corp.’s expansion,” said Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc. President and CEO Matt Hurlbutt in a statement.

Empire State Development is assisting Premier Packaging by providing up to $700,000 in Excelsior Tax Credits in exchange for job creation commitments. Monroe County, Rochester Gas & Electric and GRE also will assist with the company’s continued growth. The total project cost has been placed at $6.2 million. Premier Packaging expects to be operational in the new space by the end of 2021.

Jason Grady
Jason Grady

“Premier’s continued success is the result of our team’s dedication and commitment to quality and customer care. Leading with this customer-centric approach has paved the way for expansion through new business opportunities and continues to strengthen our organization’s culture. We look forward to the next phase of expanding and investing in our products, service, and team,” said Premier Packaging President and DSS COO Jason Grady. “We are grateful to ESD for providing Premier with an opportunity to advance our business. As a multinational company we had several options when considering a new location, but with the help of ESD and NYS, we are fortunate to continue to call this area home. The Upstate New York and Finger Lakes region is an ideal place for us to operate our business, service our customer base and further expand our offerings.”

Premier Packaging was founded in 1989 and was acquired by DSS Inc. in 2010. DSS is a multinational company, operating businesses in consumer packaging, blockchain security, direct marketing, healthcare, medical real estate and securitized digital assets. Premier has been a market leader in providing innovative and secure solutions for consumer paperboard packaging for more than a quarter of a century.

“Henrietta has become a hotbed of printing technologies and production companies — often related to the printing degrees offered by RIT — thanks to innovative companies like Premier Packaging. We look forward to the day they open shop in one of the rapidly growing industrial portions of town and are excited that they chose our community for their continued growth,” said Henrietta Town Supervisor Stephen Schultz.

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Wayne County manufacturer to expand packaging lines, add 38 jobs

Flexible packaging firm ABX Innovative Packaging Solutions plans to grow its operations in Wayne County. The company will update its existing equipment, purchase new equipment and undertake infrastructure improvements to accommodate the expansion of its green solution flexible packaging manufacturing operation.

“We offer a unique suite of flexible, sustainable packaging options for customers in consumer, healthcare and specialty markets. Flexible packaging offers exceptional environmental benefits because it uses less energy and fewer resources than other forms of packaging,” said CEO Larry Goldstein.

The Macedon manufacturer will add six new bag lines and relocate a portion of its operations to another building located at the company’s Main Street campus. The upgrades will allow ABX to better serve its customers, including a global consumer products provider of personal care and paper products that has committed to making its products 100 percent recyclable.

“These investments will support our initiatives to drive continuous improvement, higher quality and the use of post-consumer recycled resins in our products,” said company COO Jeff Godsey.

The renovation work is expected to launch this spring with target completion by the summer of 2022. ABX has committed to creating up to 38 new jobs as a result of the expansion, while 378 jobs will be retained.

Empire State Development will support the project with up to $1.35 million through the Excelsior Tax Credit program in exchange for job creation commitments. The New York Power Authority, pending approval by its board of trustees on Tuesday, is supporting the expansion with more than 2.4 megawatts of low-cost power from the ReCharge NY program. Rochester Gas & Electric, Wayne County Industrial Development Agency and Greater Rochester Enterprise are also assisting the expansion project. The total project cost has been placed at a little more than $12.2 million.

“ABX Innovative Packaging Solutions’ growth is another example of the quality workforce in our region,” Wayne County Industrial Development Agency Director and CEO Brian Pincelli said. “ABX is recognized as an industry leader and their products are critical components of our supply chain and economy nationwide. ABX CEO Larry Goldstein recognized the culture, talent, and commitment of our workforce and we couldn’t be prouder to have them here in Wayne County.”

ABX, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, creates and delivers state-of-the-art innovative flexible packaging solutions, engineered and optimized for enhanced performance. ABX has roughly 900 employees nationwide. In addition to its Wayne County location, the company also maintains operations in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana and Wisconsin.

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Arbr Studios expands Rochester space

High-end furniture maker Arbr Studios has expanded its operations in the city of Rochester.

The company has moved into a renovated 40,000-square-foot facility on Lyell Avenue at Canalside Business Center. The space formerly was occupied by renowned artist Albert Paley until his retirement in 2019.

Arbr Studios last year secured an international contract to supply its expert cabinetry and millwork products, which provided momentum for the company’s expansion.

“Our move to Albert Paley’s former studio was both strategic and poetic. After working with Albert for the last few years on various projects and recognizing how well suited the space would be for our growing business, it just felt right to consider relocating and continuing the creative legacy within these walls after his retirement,” said Arbr Studios COO Daniel Fallon.

Empire State Development will provide Arbr Studios with up to $400,000 in Excelsior Tax Credits in exchange for job creation commitments. Arbr Studios expects to hire up to 26 new employees and retain 19 employees. The total project cost was roughly $1.3 million. Monroe County, Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc. and Rochester Gas and Electric also assisted with the expansion.

“The tax credits provided by Empire State Development, as well as help from Monroe County, Greater Rochester Enterprise and Rochester Gas and Electric, definitely made the decision easier to make,” Fallon said. “We are proud to represent Rochester as a destination for creative entrepreneurial job creation.”

In addition to the new Rochester facility, Arbr Studios operates a location in the town of Leroy, under the name Icon Design. That facility serves as the exclusive manufacturer for the Wendell Castle Collection. Arbr Studios was founded in 2012 as Zeller Woodworks and manufactures high-end furniture and cabinetry.

“The abundance of exceptional industrial design professionals available here made Rochester the right choice for Arbr Studios’ expansion,” said GRE President and CEO Matt Hurlbutt. “Companies like Arbr Studios are also putting Rochester on the map for the high-end millwork fabrication industry.”

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Rochester Regional Health one step closer to clean energy goal

Rochester Regional Health expects to save more than $220,000 a year through a community solar program with Nexamp. The program will support the expansion of clean energy resources at Rochester Regional Health’s facilities while also sharing the benefits with the community.

RRH has set a goal of sourcing all of its electricity through renewable sources by 2025. The organization is combining community solar with its own on-site solar, energy efficiency measures and other initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint.

“We know that hospitals and clinics use much more energy than a typical business, and we have made a conscious decision to manage our resources carefully so that we can ensure a healthy environment and create a more sustainable community,” said Mike Waller, director of sustainability for RRH. “The ability to complement our on-site solar with a community solar agreement gives us the opportunity to offset energy usage at our many sites across the region, while also providing a green energy option for our neighbors.”

Nexamp operates dozens of community solar farms across New York state. As an anchor off-taker, Rochester Regional Health will receive a larger portion of the credit from each project, with individual residential subscribers taking the rest.

“The community solar program in New York makes it possible to increase the generation of clean energy and share those benefits with both business and residents,” said David Wells, director of community solar in New York for Nexamp. “We are focused on helping all energy users achieve sustainability and cost savings in parallel. Distributed generation of clean solar energy from the sun is meeting the needs of communities and is an important step in the de-carbonization of our society moving forward.”

Initially, Rochester Regional Health will receive credit for 9.7 MW from five projects located in Rochester Gas & Electric, National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas service territories. The clean energy generated at these projects is fed directly to the local utility grid and Rochester Regional Health receives credit for the value of that energy on its regular electric bills, helping to lower its costs while offsetting its use of electricity from traditional sources.

Three community solar farms in Spencerport will provide solar credits to Rochester General Hospital, Unity Hospital and St. Mary’s Campus. A community solar farm in Lockport will provide solar credits to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia and a community solar farm in Ghent, Columbia County, will provide solar credits to Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic and Newark-Wayne Community Hospital.

Officials noted that with no up-front investment, long-term commitment or equipment to install, community solar is equally accessible to all homeowners or renters, independent of income or credit history. For businesses such as hospitals, manufacturers, retailers and others, community solar is ideal because it can be used on its own or paired with on-site solar generation to further reduce environmental impact.

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Avangrid donates $400,000 to heating fund

New York State Electric and Gas, Rochester Gas & Electric and Avangrid Foundation have donated $400,000 to the Project SHARE Heating Fund to help lower-income residents with their heating bills this winter.

The program also is funded with support from NYSEG and RG&E customers who choose to make contributions through their monthly utility bill. The donations go directly to the program to support their neighbors who are in the most need. The program is fuel neutral, which means that customers can use the grant to pay for any heating source including propane, wood or oil.

“With this donation, the Avangrid Foundation renews its commitment to helping our customers through difficult financial times,” said Nicole Licata Grant, director of the Avangrid Foundation. “Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, Project SHARE has helped thousands of families who’ve experienced hardship. It’s one way we help keep homes and hearts warm each winter.”

The fund is administered by HeartShare Human Services of New York. Since 1982, Project SHARE has helped 62,850 families with grants totaling more than $17 million.

To receive a Project SHARE Heating Fund grant, you must have an active account with either NYSEG or RG&E; meet the HEAP income guideline; have an active disconnect notice; and have exhausted all other assistance programs, such as HEAP, Emergency HEAP and local or county emergency aid.

“This program will continue to help our customers who need additional assistance paying for their heating needs and was built to be a safety net for our people when they need it most,” said Scott Baker, vice president of customer service for NYSEG and RG&E. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented financial challenges for thousands of New Yorkers, but even through these challenging times, it’s tremendous to see the generosity of customers who contribute and help others.”

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Online meeting planned for proposed utility rate hike

Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC) is organizing an online meeting on Thursday to discuss a rate increase proposed by Rochester Electric & Gas (RG&E) and New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG).

The event will help participants prepare to comment at an upcoming New York State Public Service Commission hearing on the utility’s proposed rate increase.

The Commission will hold virtual public hearings on Aug. 26 and 27 and comments can also be made online, by email, phone and by U.S. mail.

RPCC has been involved over the past year as an intervener in the utility’s rate case. In June, RG&E/NYSEG filed a proposed settlement agreement.

RPCC sees promising and problematic features in the proposal, including a plan to raise electric rates during a pandemic.

RPCC’s online meeting is set for 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday to help citizens in RG&E and NYSEG territories get oriented to the rate case, assist them in registering for the public hearings, and to guide them to other feedback opportunities.

To join the meeting, register online at: This page also includes extensive information about the case and all the public input opportunities and options.

NYSERDA teams with utilities on energy efficiency for low-income residents

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will team with the state’s investor-owned utilities on a new framework to increase access to energy efficiency and clean energy solutions for low- to moderate-income households and affordable multifamily buildings.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the initiative last week, noting that the collaboration and investments made as part of the initiative will result in cleaner and healthier indoor air and more affordable energy options for more than 350,000 low- to moderate-income (LMI) households statewide.

The framework, submitted to the state Department of Public Service, will more than double the number of low-income households and multifamily buildings receiving energy efficiency services such as insulation, air sealing, electric load reduction and HVAC improvements annually, as well as increase outreach, education and community-based support programs for energy efficiency improvements.

“As we continue our fight against climate change, we must ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean energy and are not left behind in the transition to a green economy, particularly those in our most vulnerable communities who most directly feel the harmful impacts of climate change and environmental degradation,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This groundbreaking public-private partnership is a smart and innovative approach that will bring affordable, clean energy solutions directly into the homes of those who need them most, and make the lives of all New Yorkers safer and healthier.”

LMI households are disproportionately impacted by energy costs, with many experiencing an annual energy burden exceeding 20 percent of their household income.

The statewide framework will invest nearly $1 billion through 2025 to advance energy efficiency in the LMI market segment including:
• More than $300 million to reduce energy burdens by increasing access to energy efficiency for LMI homeowners and renters;
• More than $500 million to improve energy efficiency in affordable multifamily buildings;
• $45 million for community-level engagement and capacity building with community-based organizations; and
• $30 million for developing clean heating and cooling solutions for LMI homes and buildings through research and analysis of institutional barriers and funding of pilots and demonstrations.

The framework filed July 27 includes a substantial increase in funding for low- to moderate-income energy efficiency and outlines a comprehensive strategy between NYSERDA and the state’s investor-owned utility companies including Central Hudson, Con Edison, National Fuel Gas, National Grid, New York State Electric & Gas/Rochester Gas & Electric and Orange & Rockland, with expanded funding in 2020 and new and modified programs beginning next year.

The new initiatives are expected to increase market demand and create new opportunities for clean energy workers. Through the Clean Energy Fund, NYSERDA will offer a range of workforce development and training opportunities.

Statewide, 3.2 million households, or 40 percent of residents, qualify as LMI, with incomes at or below 80 percent of their area’s median income. Buildings account for 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from fuel combustion and electric generation in the state, officials noted.

NYSERDA also is offering $10 million in funding through Green Jobs – Green New York to support a Loan Loss Reserve Program prioritizing lending to support green jobs and lending for energy efficiency and renewable energy in communities across the state. The pilot program will have a direct benefit to underserved borrowers by reducing the risk for community-based Financial institutions that loan money for energy efficiency improvements installed in residential and multifamily buildings, as well as in buildings used by small businesses and not-for-profits.

“Today’s announcement marks an important progression in a series of actions the state is taking to ensure no New Yorker, regardless of income, is denied access to energy efficiency services that provide more comfortable, clean and healthy living environments,” said NYSERDA Acting President and CEO Doreen Harris. “Our investment underscores the laser focus we have in advancing New York’s just and equitable transition to a carbon-neutral economy under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership.”

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Avangrid companies file energy plan

New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. have filed their 2020 Distributed System Implementation Plan, the Avangrid Inc. subsidiaries’ strategy to integrate distributed energy resources (DER) into the New York grid.

The plan outlines the framework for how the companies will support New York state energy and decarbonization goals by building integrated planning and interconnection, grid operations and market services functions.

“The electric power industry is in the midst of unprecedented change, enabled by innovation and advances in emerging clean energy, power delivery, and information technologies,” said Rita King, senior director of Smart Grids Innovation and Planning at Avangrid. “The DSIP provides an actionable roadmap for our companies to support the decarbonization of New York’s economy, including the electrification of transportation and buildings, and will enable the integration of greater amounts of DER within our service areas. Our approach is customer-centric, clean, integrated and smart.”

The five-year implementation plan involves investments in several key areas, including grid automation, energy storage, electric vehicles (EV), smart meter (advanced metering infrastructure) implementation and market services.

Within those areas, the utilities plan to:
• Make significant progress in implementing a long-term grid automation program to improve the responsiveness, reliability, and efficiency of the distribution system. Investments will be made in grid devices that measure, monitor and control electric power flows along the network;
• Proactively support the identification and development of energy storage projects that benefit customers and the grid and are attractive to developers;
• Support the development of the EV market within its service territories through continued development of capabilities, including integrating EV load while minimizing the impact on peak demand, supporting EV growth with sufficient charging infrastructure while understanding impact and needs on the system. As part of the recent rate case settlement filing, the companies proposed and are preparing to implement a comprehensive EV Program that would accelerate EV adoption throughout its service territories;
• Deploy smart meters, planned to begin in the spring of 2022, after approval of the recent rate case settlement filing. Smart meters will help customers manage their energy usage, and support time-varying pricing and innovative rate structures; and
• Develop an online marketplace. The platform will empower customers to make better energy management decisions by connecting them to pricing options and programs, as well as to products and services offered by competitive suppliers.

In June, after months of negotiations, NYSEG and RG&E agreed to a slate of gas reduction strategies, retracted $128 million for gas infrastructure including pipelines and funded $1.5 million for renewable heating systems for low-income residents.

As part of the settlement agreement on the gas case, filed on June 22, environmental groups secured utility commitments to plan their systems around no growth in gas use and to offset new customers’ gas use through energy efficiency, heat pumps, and other non-gas alternatives. The companies also plan to study and possibly implement district geothermal pilots. The companies further agreed to end their oil-to-gas conversion incentives in favor of approximately $1.5 million for low-income renewable heating rebates.

“We celebrate the efforts of all the groups that worked together to achieve these precedent-setting concessions in the gas rate cases,” said Jessica Azulay, executive director of Alliance for a Green Economy. “Most of the organizations who worked together to win this agreement had never been involved in a rate case before, but together we successfully went toe-to-toe with a multi-billion-dollar multinational corporation to advance our renewable energy transition.”

As part of the settlement, RG&E average residential bills will rise over the next three years to $100 more per year than before the rate case started, based on an increase of 15.5 percent in delivery rates, environmental organization officials noted.

“The transition to a clean energy future must be affordable for all New Yorkers to be sustainable,” said Kristen Van Hooreweghe, project manager for Rochester People’s Climate Coalition. “The gas case settlement, even with its environmental initiatives, has nominal rate increases. Conversely, the companies and Gov. Cuomo’s Department of Public Service failed to develop a rate plan on the electric case that adequately addresses the disproportionate energy burden facing our low-income community members, especially during the current COVID pandemic.”

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Utilities make donations to local food banks

foodlink-logoFoodlink will receive a $75,000 donation from RG&E, as the local utility and sister company NYSEG both make donations to programs supporting people impacted economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The two utilities are donating $275,000 to local food-relief organizations, part of an overall $2 million commitment from their parent company, AVANGRID. 

 “Supporting local organizations such as Foodlink is an important step in caring for the communities we serve,” said Carl A. Taylor, President and CEO of NYSEG and RG&E. The local utilities are focusing their donations on regional food banks in Western and Central New York, the Southern Tier and northeastern New York. 

“Foodlink is going to great lengths to produce 5,000 meals daily for school-age kids, and provide tens of thousands of emergency food boxes to our network during this time of uncertainty for food-insecure households throughout our region,” said Julia Tedesco, president and CEO of Foodlink. The RG&E donation “will allow us to continue to serve some of our region’s most vulnerable residents.”

RG&E and NYSEG also previously donated more than 17,500 N95 face masks to local health care workers on the front lines. 

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Utilities take steps related to coronavirus; consumer groups call for more

Avangrid utility companies RG&E and NYSEG have announced several steps to help protect consumers and their employees during the COVID-19 outbreak, such as suspending both inside meter readings and power shutoffs. 

But Rochester-area consumer groups are saying more is needed. 

Here are the steps the utility companies are taking:

  • Temporarily suspending service cutoffs due to non payment.
  • Shifting to estimated usage or customer-reported meter readings.
  • Closing walk-in centers, and urging customers to use a new mobile app, the companies’ websites, or phone to communicate with the utility or pay bills. In person payment can also be made at authorized pay agents, including Walmart. 
  • Suspension of late payment charges.

“During this pandemic, ensuring the health and safety of our employees is paramount to our ability to continue to safely deliver reliable electric and gas service to our customers across our operating companies,” said Carl A. Taylor, president and CEO of NYSEG and RG&E. “We began communicating with our employees more than a month ago to reinforce preventive actions such as hand washing guidelines and ways to avoid spreading infection that are now part of everyday conversations worldwide.”

Taylor continued, “We have activated our emergency response and business continuity plans and are working with local, state and federal emergency response officials to make sure that we are providing whatever support is needed in this unprecedented and rapidly changing situation.”

Meanwhile, a group of community organizations has called for the utilities to cancel a rate hike planned for May, and to commit to a longer suspension of shutoffs. 

“As families in our community face the sudden loss of jobs and income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge Rochester Gas & Electric to commit to a full moratorium on utility shutoffs for the duration of this health emergency. The proposed 30-day suspension is an inadequate response to this crisis,” the group said in a media statement.

The group includes Citizen Action of New York, Metro Justice, Racial Justice Initiative, Rochester City-Wide Tenants Union, Rochester DSA, Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, ROCitizen, and VOCAL-NY – Rochester Chapter.

A spokesman for the utilities, Michael Jamison, said the utilites are in negotiation on the rate hike, and will release information when it can. Regarding the shutoff policy, he said, “At this time, RG&E plans to suspend customer shut offs due to unpaid bills for a period of 30 days, at which point we will reevaluate the situation.” 

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Utility rate hike request gets heated response at Rochester hearing

Two local power companies and the state agency that regulates them caught fire from residents attending a rate hike hearing Tuesday afternoon. 

Some people who attended the hearing held at Rochester’s City Hall by the New York State Public Service Commission were angry that Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. and the New York State Electric and Gas Corp. are raising rates again. Others claimed the PSC had failed to do its duty to protect citizens, especially those who have low incomes. And many said the utilities need to do a better job of investing in renewable energy and encouraging conservation in order to stop climate change.  

Chanting and clapping sometimes held up the hearing and the administrative judge overseeing it had to remind people of the rules. 

 The hearing Tuesday afternoon drew about 100 people and 40 who signed up to make a statement on the utilities’ proposed rate hike. A second hearing was held Tuesday evening, with more scheduled for three other venues around the state later this month. 

NYSEG is asking for increases that would result in $10.17 more for electricity and $1.05 more for gas each month for the typical residential customer. RGE is seeking an additional $2.86 for electricity and $1.56 for gas each month. Clearing line-damaging vegetation and making other investments were the main reasons behind the rate request, utility spokesmen said.  

Joseph Syta, vice president, regulatory, for utility parent company Avangrid, told the group that RGE hasn’t received approval for a rate increase since 2015, but he later added that the outcome of that rate case was that increases would come in three installments, the last of which took place in April 2018. 

Many of the people making statements said RG&E and NYSEG already charge too much just to supply the power, regardless of usage. That practice falls particularly hard on low-income customers, they said. 

“Why do our rates have to increase for RG&E to do their job?” asked Jasmine Raggler of Rochester. She said her most recent bill was $73.09 and only $14.78 was for actual electricity and gas. In four years a meter reader has never come to her home, she said, yet she pays a monthly fee for meters. She even pays 76 cents a month to cover being billed, a charge that multiplied by all of the utility’s customers means they’re taking in $3.5 million annually just to send customers their bills, she said. 

Kate Kressman-Kehoe, a filmmaker from Rochester who has focused on climate change, said, “This is a climate crisis and this is an opportunity to have an impact for decades.” She urged the utility to invest in a more resilient power grid and green energy, fix methane leaks (from natural gas) and phase out the use of fossil fuels.

Jerome Underwood, president and CEO of Action for a Better Community, said “To do no harm is reasonable,” but a rate hike will particularly harm low-income people, who are disproportionately people of color. Homeownership remains out of reach of many people of color, due to systemic racism, Underwood said, and high utility rates contribute to that.  

Utility costs, including long-term payment plans that have people paying thousands of dollars in utility bills over a decade to try to catch up are “once again a downward push on folks trying to stay afloat,” Underwood said. 

The hearing, presided over by Administrative Judge Michelle Phillips from Albany, was not structured to provide responses to the statements from ratepayers. Two PSC commissioners, James Alesi of East Rochester and Diane Burman of the Albany area, attended the hearing. Later in the day, Avangrid released a statement reiterating its reasoning for a rate increase request. 

Severe weather events, which have greatly impacted both service areas, have increased both in severity and frequency. Together, the companies experienced 165 major storms between 2012 and 2018, leading to regular customer outages. The filings seek to address this by making the investments necessary to provide customers with a more reliable and resilient electric system. Likewise, it also seeks to implement a comprehensive vegetation management program to address the impact that overgrown trees have on system reliability. More than half of RG&E and NYSEG’s combined outages are caused by trees or branches contacting wire and other electric equipment. If approved, the plans would help reduce the number of customers that experience outages and assist in expediently restoring power after a significant event,” the statement read. 

Several speakers asked the PSC to cut the utilities’ base rates, saying $28 a month is the highest in the state. They also urged the PSC to exempt households for a hike if their earnings are at 250 percent of the poverty level or lower.

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Electric and gas rate hike hearings scheduled for Tuesday

Hearings will be held Tuesday in downtown Rochester on rate increases being proposed by Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and New York State Electric & Gas Corp.

The hearings are scheduled for 1:30 and 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at Rochester’s City Hall, 30 Church Street. At each hearing – as well as others scheduled for other parts of the state – an administrative law judge will preside and the utility companies will offer an explanation for the increase request. Periods for public comment will begin at 2:30 p.m. for the afternoon session, and 7 p.m. for the evening hearing.

According to a posting from the New York State Public Service Commission, which oversees state utilities, estimated increases in average residential bills would be:

  • $2.86 a month for RG&E electric customers
  • $1.56 a month for RG&E gas customers
  • $10.17 a month for NYSEG electric customers
  • $1.05 a month in for NYSEG gas customers.

PSC said the utilities, which are both subsidiaries of international conglomerate Avangrid, are asking for increases based predominantly on the need to manage vegetation, but they also listed increased operating expenses, depreciation and infrastructure investments among their reasons.

A local environmental group, Rochester People’s Climate Coalition has launched a campaign to urge fellow rate payers to use their testimony to push the utility company toward greener forms of energy production.

“RG&E/NYSEG continue to expand gas infrastructure and incentivize fossil fuel-based technologies, moving us away, not toward, meeting NY State’s newest goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Green energy and clean technologies are available, effective, and necessary to protect our climate,” read a statement the group had prepared on the hearings.

Efforts to reach an Avangrid spokesperson for comment were unsuccessful.

People who wish to speak at the hearings don’t need to make an appointment ahead of time. They are limited to three minutes and may also provide a written copy of their comments if they wish. Others who cannot attend the scheduled hearings may provide testimony online, by phone or in writing by Aug. 26. Information on how to do that is available at the PSC’s website.

Additional hearings will be held in Keene Valley, Essex County, and Ithaca Aug. 14, and in Binghamton Aug. 15

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Avangrid donation makes day camps possible for city children

 A $10,000 grant from Avangrid Foundation, in partnership with Avangrid subsidiary Rochester Gas & Electric Corp., will pay to make some summer learning camps free at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

According to the RMSC, the grant will cover the cost of one week of Curiosity Camp for 50 children from the City of Rochester. The camps help prevent summer learning loss, an issue that plays a role in low graduation rates, such as those at many of the schools in the Rochester City School District.

Nearly 2,500 children attend camps at the museum each summer, focusing on activities such as robotics, dinosaurs, virtual reality, archaeology, animation, and space. The hands-on programs engage children ages 2 to 15 and help generate excitement in learning.

“We are thrilled to be investing in such a timely and important opportunity for young people,” said Nicole Licata Grant, director of Avangrid Foundation.  “It is exciting to be part of making a difference and contributing to the future of tomorrow’s young leaders and the workforce.”

Openings are still available for select RMSC summer Curiosity Camps, which run from June 24 to Aug. 23. Information and registration are available online or by calling (585) 697-1942.

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Lagoner Farms wins grant to support electrical expansion

Lagoner Farms in Williamson, Wayne County, has earned a $15,497 grant from Rochester Gas and Electric to upgrade electrical service and capacity for its continuing expansion.

The fifth-generation farm business sells fresh produce at farmers markets and its own farm store, but has recently diversified, expanding the store, adding wholesale outlets, taking on more farmers markets, turning over six acres to organic farming, and starting Embark Craft Ciderworks. In all, the business invested $276,000 for its expansions and needed greater electrical service to support the growth.

RG&E President and CEO Carl A. Taylor said, “While we offer financial support through various economic development programs, the Agriculture Capital Investment Incentive Program was created to assist companies like Lagoner Farms with upgrading their single- phase service to three-phase power in order to meet growing demand for their products.”  Three-phase service will allow the business to use more power at one time.

The utility company’s incentive program offers up to $100,000 to help with electric-related infrastructure improvements. The amount depends on how much the customer has invested and requires a capital investment of at least $50,000 toward facility and equipment purchases, according to Avangrid, the parent company of RG&E and New York State Electric and Gas.

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Schumer and Gillibrand question utilities on outages

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are putting New York power companies on the hot seat.

The senators sent a letter Tuesday to the president and CEO of New York State Electric and Gas and of Rochester Gas & Electric Corp., which are both owned by Avangrid, seeking answers about the handling of power restoration after last week’s wind storm.

Avangrid had reported as many as 130,000 customers lost power during the event that started on Wednesday. The company declared all customers’ electric service was restored by 6:15 p.m. Saturday, though it had previously provided much earlier estimates for restoration.

“It is our understanding that local officials were originally told it would not take more than 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power, which was inaccurate. Power was not fully restored until 72 hours after the storm” the senators’ letter to CEO Carl A. Taylor read.  “As you assess your response to the winter storms that have occurred across New York State, we urge you to look closely at the procedures you used to communicate with members of the public and with local officials, many of whom are relied upon to provide information and resources to the public. Inaccurate information that sets false expectations can have serious consequences for those who make decisions based upon when they expect power to be restored.”

Gillibrand and Schumer also asked for transparency about steps the utility companies take in a major storm event.

Avangrid did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the senators’ statement.

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