New York is a deregulated energy market. That means that the company that delivers you power (the utility) is separate from the company that produces power. In the default scenario, you allow the utility to make the decision about where the energy is coming from. Typically in New York, the utility will purchase energy from a host of sources including hydro, nuclear, coal, and natural gas generators. In the recent years, as renewable energy sources have become more and more cost competitive, an increasing amount of wind and solar generation has also been included mix.
Hydro is energy that is derived from the power of water. New York is lucky to be home to one of the largest sources of hydro power on earth – Niagara Falls. Hydro is considered a clean source of energy, and is typically very inexpensive. Unfortunately, there is not much more potential for new hydro plants to be built. However, the existing hydro facilities are expected to continue churning out cheap hydro power for decades to come.
Nuclear power plants utilize the energy released from nuclear fission. The heat from nuclear reactions is used to turn water into steam and drive a steam turbine. The power plant must keep the reaction stable, and the nuclear material must be safely stored and disposed of. Currently, New York State gets about 30% of its electricity from Nuclear power.
Coal is a type of fossil fuel made from highly compressed carbonized plant matter. Coal plants burn coal to heat up water and produce steam to drive a steam turbine. Coal plants are considered a ‘dirty’ source of power, and a central goal of New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) is lowering the amount of electricity delivered from coal energy. About 1% of electricity generated in New York comes from coal.
Natural gas is quickly changing the energy landscape in the United States. As natural gas prices have dropped in the last decade, natural gas has taken hold as one of the fastest growing sources of electricity generation in the state and the country. Natural gas comes from deep underground rock formations and is burned in natural gas plants to drive a steam turbine. Natural gas is currently the largest share of electricity generation in New York, representing over 40% of the existing supply.
Wind power is harvested from the sky using wind turbines. Wind turbines have drastically come down in price in the recent decade, leading to nearly 3% of New York’s electricity supply coming from this source of energy. Wind is considered a clean source of power, and the continued proliferation of this technology is one of the goals of REV.
Since the mid 90’s, New Yorkers have had the ability to choose to purchase their energy from a company other than the utility. These power suppliers (called Energy Service Companies, or ESCOs) can purchase power or generate electricity themselves. They sell power through the existing utility lines to their customers. ESCOs can source their power from any available generation capacity, though some charge extra to supply a higher proportion of renewable energy.
The Sun & Energy CCA negotiates with ESCOs to supply low cost energy. We vet the source of energy that ESCOs procure, to ensure that CCA members get the type of energy they want. Sun & Energy listens to members of the community, and along with your local government officials decide what type of fuel source to utilize. As a large source of business for an ESCO, Sun & Energy wields much more purchasing power than a typical residential or commercial customer could garner on their own.