Four Monroe County communities consider renewable energy partnership

Nov 28, 2018

Credit freeimages.com/Johan Bolhuis

Four local communities are hoping to use their collective buying power to make renewable energy widely available to residents and small business owners in 2019.

"We can set an example here,” said Brighton town supervisor Bill Moehle. “Just as Westchester set an example for the State of New York, we think we can go forward and really show what communities do when they set their mind to making a change like this."

The towns of Brighton, Irondequoit, and Pittsford and the village of Pittsford are finalizing a partnership that would establish a community choice aggregation program (CCA) to purchase one hundred percent green energy and sell it back to home and business owners.

One hundred percent green, explained Pittsford town supervisor Bill Smith, would be a combination of the actual electricity that is purchased as well as credits that go toward sustainable energy projects, either locally or elsewhere in the country.

"By the time you're done, you can say that you have a one hundred percent sustainable energy package,” he said. “It does not mean that in the immediate future, that one hundred percent of the electrons coming through the wire are provided by sustainable energy sources, but that you're getting there."  

Home and business owners would be able to opt out of the renewable energy plan if they wanted to, but Moehle thinks many of them would consider it and renewable would eventually become the norm.

"I think that's so important. As we've seen in this latest climate report, the status quo is not going to work. It's not going to work for our children, for our grandchildren. We have to take steps today."

If the four municipalities agree to the terms of their proposed partnership, and Smith and Moehle hope that happens by the end of 2018, the supervisors expect to find an administrator early in the new year to shop around for a green energy package according to their specifications. 

An administrator must be approved by the New York State Public Service Commission and currently there are two that meet that criteria and serve upstate New York: Joule Assets of Westchester County and New York City-based Good Energy. 

In 2016, four Westchester County municipalities adopted a one hundred percent renewable power supply: a combination of solar, wind and hydropower, as part of a pilot program.

Based on what happened there, Smith isn’t sure that renewable energy will come at a lower cost for local ratepayers.

"That could be a tall order because their utility rate was the Con Edison rate, which was much higher than what we pay here to RG and E,” he said. “So it could be a challenge to go out and beat the RG and E rate that we already have."

But Moehle believes the joint purchasing force of the four Monroe County municipalities will translate into better negotiating power. Smith and Moehle agreed that the size of the proposed CCA is not static and that other local communities can join if they are interested, potentially enhancing the opportunity to compete for lower prices.