A Better Choice in Renewable Energy

Article Written By Mary Nicholas, Community Solar Organizer

To find out more about SunCommon and what makes us a better local option, get in touch.

In an era of booming renewable industries and exponential growth for solar and wind, energy choices have become empowering and affordable options for individuals to substantially chip away at their carbon footprint.

While Energy Service Companies (ESCO) had previously been viewed as one of the best options for customers, recent studies and investigations have brought to light the large-scale disenchantment with ESCOs, highlighting the questionable (at best) ethics involved in gaining customers as well as the significant overpayments many ESCO customers (including low income individuals/families and seniors) experience.

The good news is that various states, including New York, have changed their regulations to allow for programs such as Community Solar to thrive, bringing an alternative option to customers who don’t want to depend on an ESCO or the utility company for their energy. With these recent developments, it’s important to be vigilant and investigative to make the smartest choice for both your pocketbook and the environment. It’s also important to understand the difference between what SunCommon offers versus what ESCOs offer.

What is an ESCO?

An ESCO is an Energy Service Company. Many people in New York choose an ESCO for their electric and/or gas supply portion of their RG&E (or utility) bill. These companies pull in customers by promising cheaper rates and many ESCOs offer renewable energy as an appeal. Over 200 ESCOs are approved to sell in New York State, and recently, many of these companies have come under fire for their lack of transparency and opaque business ethics.

The New York State Public Service Commission launched an industry-wide investigation into ESCOs sales tactics and practices last year. As a recent Times Union article points out,

“A Public Utility Law Project analysis of thousands of complaints made by ESCO customers between 2012 and 2014 shows that a significant number of customers were ‘slammed,’ an industry term for when an ESCO switches the consumer’s contract without their consent.”

And this isn’t to say that every single ESCO is like this. But many are. And this requires customers to constantly be on guard. Even if a customer wants to leave their ESCO contract, oftentimes there are significant termination charges that prevent them from doing so.

So what is the difference between SunCommon and an ESCO?

  • SunCommon is a certified B Corporation, which means we have a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and they accomplish this by using business as a force for good.
  • SunCommon is NOT an ESCO.
  • SunCommon offers Community, Residential, and Commercial Solar. With Community Solar, customers become members of local solar farms, offsetting their electrical with the most local, green energy possible, while supporting the local economy. I won’t say local again. But the solar farms are typically within a 20 mile radius of the customers’ homes.
  • When folks go with an ESCO, the definition of renewable could mean going with a company that owns stock in a wind farm in California, or going with a company that includes nuclear in their definition of clean energy. Note: with the Community Solar programB , you can remain with your ESCO if you choose. But that’s a story for a different time.
  • Community Solar rates are predictable and locked in – you don’t have to worry about them spiking when you aren’t looking. You know exactly what you are going to pay, and when you are going to pay it.
  • Community Solar is a flexible program, making entering and leaving the program as easy as possible.
  • SunCommon’s Community Solar program covers BOTH the supply AND delivery charges of your electric bill, whereas ESCOs cover supply only.
  • SunCommon utilizes a grassroots outreach effort to inform, involve, and benefit the community. As the first company to offer Community Solar in Western NY, door-to-door canvass efforts as well as events, word of mouth referrals, and our solar friends program have proven to be effective forms of empowering our community to support clean, green, local energy.

If you would like to learn more about your options to go solar with SunCommon, we invite you to get started today.

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