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Brockport steps up on power program


Local climate activists have been pressing governments across Monroe County, particularly the City of Rochester, to set up a program in which it buys electricity and sells it to residents. But the Village of Brockport, not the city, is the first community out of the gate.

Brockport hasn't set up a community choice aggregation program (CCA) yet, but its village board has decided to pursue it. CCA is a state-approved approach in which one or more local governments buys electricity for its residents, typically as a way to reduce costs and secure power from cleaner sources, particularly renewables like wind, solar, and hydro.

The Brockport village board met last week and voted to send a model law to the village attorney and the village's Code Review Committee.

Brockport's interest in the CCA concept lies primarily in cost savings, says Mayor Margay Blackman. The village has the highest tax rate in Monroe County, in part because it has a large amount of tax-exempt property, much of it belonging to SUNY Brockport. Community choice aggregation is a way to save residents some money, even if those savings are not on their tax bills, Blackman says.

After the village attorney and Code Review Committee finish their critiques, the proposal will come back to the board, which will have to set a public hearing before it can adopt the legislation.

And even then, Brockport won't be able to go it alone. Generally, CCA programs need 60,000 or more customers for them to be feasible, Blackman says. Brockport will need to join with other communities to make community choice aggregation happen.

That's how the state's only operating CCA program is set up. Westchester Power is a consortium of 20 Westchester County communities, 14 of which get all of their power entirely from renewables. And the vast majority of households saw their power bills decrease in the first year.

Members of the Rochester People's Climate Coalition have been speaking with officials in individual towns and villages, as well as the city, to try to build support for community choice aggregation.

The city, some villages, and some towns have expressed interest in the initiative and some are having committee discussions, while other have requested model legislation, Rochester People's Climate Coalition member Sue Hughes-Smith says in an e-mail.

And the City of Rochester's draft Climate Action Plan specifically mentions community choice aggregation as a possible way for the city to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The draft plan targets emissions from both city government and private citizens' energy consumption. It lists a variety of approaches for reducing carbon emissions, from encouraging biking and the use of mass transportation to electricity usage.

Brockport has taken the firmest step forward, which coalition members are pleased to see, Hughes-Smith says.

"We're happy to lead the way to do that," Blackman says.