News10NBC Investigates: City of Rochester renews community power program
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — If you live in the City of Rochester, you may be paying more for your electricity than you realize.
The City recently renewed a program that automatically enrolls residents in a plan where half of your energy supply comes from renewable sources. While the program may help the environment, it won’t help your wallet, at least not right now.
The City renewed its Community Choice Aggregation program — which is administered by Joule Community Power —for another 27 months. Joule buys electricity on behalf of residential and small commercial customers in Rochester and then charges a fixed rate per kilowatt hour for it. The new rate is higher than it was in the past, and currently about 30% more than the supply charge for those who stick with RG&E.
As is the case with most CCA programs, residents are automatically enrolled in a default option through the CCA, unless they explicitly opt-out.
“If I was to go with just the default rate, just the default, I would be paying $536 more annually in my energy bill and that’s quite a bit of money,” says Mike Reinhardt, a city resident.
The default rate is higher because at least 50% of the supply comes from renewable sources. Reinhardt worries about people who may have gotten the mailing and thought it was junk.
“Can you afford to support 50% renewable energy? We all want to do our part, but sometimes it’s just not feasible,” he says.
Only customers who are already using an ESCO (Energy Service Company) for the supply of their electricity, or those who are currently on a payment plan with RG&E, are not automatically rolled over.
“How as a consumer, with all the consumer protections we have in this state, where it’s almost overboard, how can this be?” wonders Reinhardt.
A spokesperson from the New York State Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities and ESCOs has told News10NBC:
“The Commission created the CCA program as opt-out rather than opt-in to speed development of this critically important program given the fact that it provides significant benefits to participating customers, either through savings on their energy supply costs and/or through the provision of additional product offerings such as renewable energy. If customers are dissatisfied with the CCA program for any reason, they can quickly and easily leave.”
In this case, there won’t be any immediate savings for customers. The fixed-rate is currently three cents higher per kilowatt, hour compared to RG&E’s current variable rate.
Even if you want a 50% renewable option, there are a number of other ESCOs offering products to individual customers with a much lower rate.
“The first two I searched have 50% renewable energy and they’re both at roughly five cents, just a little bit over five cents per kilowatt hour,” explains Reinhardt.
“The price is fixed for the electricity supply for the term of the CCA contract, unlike the RG&E supply price which fluctuates daily. While savings aren’t guaranteed, over the term of the agreement there may be times where the supply rate is higher or lower than the RG&E rate. The 50% NYS renewable is the default supply option, but customers can select the conventional supply option if they choose to do so for a lower fixed rate. Or there is a 100% renewable option at a higher price. Also remember that CCA is only for electricity supply, and doesn’t include RG&E electricity delivery costs, or natural gas supply or delivery. So, it’s just a portion of the overall RG&E bill,” says a spokesperson for the City of Rochester.
For more information and/or to opt-out call 585-244-0244 or visit www.rochestercommunitypower.com