Wind turbine and power lines

As Costco and Sam’s Club shoppers can attest, buying in bulk can save money. Now a growing number of communities are taking the same approach to electricity.

Typically, individual consumers buy electricity from a utility. But nine states now have laws allowing what’s known as community choice aggregation. This means local governments can buy energy in bulk on behalf of their citizens, while the utility continues to manage transmission.

Customers can opt out. But John Farrell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance says usually fewer than 10% of customers do.

In part, that’s because community choice programs often provide the same or lower rates.

“And a secondary thing that is happening in most of the places where these programs are running is the purchase of more renewable energy,” Farrell says.

For example, many programs in California and New York offer customers the option of buying 100% renewable electricity.

“Community choice really represents a movement that we’re seeing across the country of cities saying, ‘We want to do more around climate and we want to do more around clean energy,’” Farrell says.

He says as these programs grow more common, they can help get more clean energy on the grid and save people money, too.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.