Henrietta and Rush are eyeing renewable power for residents and businesses 

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO
Henrietta and Rush are the latest Monroe County towns with plans to set up a renewable energy buyers club of sorts for households and small businesses

Both towns have taken initial steps toward establishing so-called community choice aggregation programs. Through the programs, the towns would bid out an electricity supply contract for thousands of residential and certain commercial customers, who could then buy their electricity through that supplier. Potential customers have the option to decline.

In Henrietta, Supervisor Steve Schultz said that the goal is to provide a 100 percent renewable power supply to residents by default, but only if the cost is equal to or less than what town households and businesses are paying to Rochester Gas & Electric. The utility would still handle the delivery of electricity as well as billing under the arrangement.

click to enlarge Henrietta Supervisor Steve Schultz - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Henrietta Supervisor Steve Schultz
“It has to be cost neutral or cost saving, and then it’s going to be as green as possible so we can get the best of both worlds,” Schultz said. “That’s my goal.”

Henrietta and Rush will be joining with Brighton, Canandaigua, and Victor to solicit electricity supply bids. The towns expect to put a call out for bids at the end of the summer and decide on a supplier by the fall.

Brighton, Canandaigua, and Victor already have active community choice aggregation programs, and their supply contracts are set to expire shortly.

The town of Henrietta, which is the largest of the municipalities going to bid, has a population of roughly 47,000 and it has more than 16,500 housing units, according to the 2020 U.S. census.

“Henrietta’s nice because it brings a nice chunk of people and businesses into the bid, so it should be an attractive bid for suppliers,” said Sue Hughes-Smith, a Brighton resident who is a principal of Roctricity, one of the firms that formed Monroe Community Power.

Henrietta and Rush have scheduled several informational meetings regarding community choice aggregation. Henrietta has scheduled one for 7 p.m. June 2 at the Henrietta Library.
Rush expects to hold one during its upcoming board meeting at 7 p.m. on June 8 and another at 7 p.m. on July 7. A virtual session will be held for both towns on June 21.

New York state established community choice aggregation in 2016 to give municipalities leverage to negotiate better electricity rates for residents and business, but also to aid in the large-scale, statewide transition to renewable power.

Whether community choice aggregation saves electricity customers money is a solid “it depends.”

Rochester Gas & Electric buys electricity on the state’s wholesale market, where prices are variable and set according to market conditions such as demand and supply. The supply contracts secured under a community choice program generally set fixed rates.

click to enlarge Roctricity's Sue Hughes-Smith - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Roctricity's Sue Hughes-Smith
Here’s how that works in practical terms: If RG&E acts as a household’s energy supplier, the utility charges $0.075 per kilowatt hour; that rate is a 30-day average. Through the city of Rochester’s community choice aggregation program, participating households pay a set rate of $0.059.

The average Rochester-area household uses 600 kilowatt hours a month, so the average supply charge through RG&E would be about $45 androughly $35 under the city’s community choice aggregation program supply contract with Constellation New Energy.

That equation won’t always be the same, since RG&E uses variable pricing. For example, this past February, the utility’s electricity supply rates hovered around $.05 per kilowatt hour for the month.

Hughes-Smith instead framed the community choice aggregation as a way to make renewable energy available and accessible to larger groups of people and businesses.

“The goal is always to be able to deliver a ... price for renewable electricity that would certainly be competitive with what RG&E is purchasing, if not better,” Hughes-Smith said. “We’ll just have to see what the market holds.”

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at [email protected].

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