By Ann G. Berwick
Many businesses, organizations and residents ask what they can do to address climate change. Broadly speaking, they can do two things: use less energy by doing things like turning off appliances when they are not in use, insulating their homes or other buildings, driving fuel-efficient vehicles and electrifying their business fleet; and they can use renewable energy. In other words: they can use less, and green the rest.
The City of Newton is developing a plan for a new electricity program called Newton Power Choice, which will provide an opportunity for Newton to significantly increase the amount of renewable energy in the community’s electricity supply, all from New England-based renewable energy projects. This program includes both residential dwellings and businesses.
Newton Power Choice is a form of group purchasing known as an electricity aggregation. Currently, Eversource both delivers electricity to most households and small businesses in Newton and purchases the electricity on their behalf. With the program, the city will use the bulk buying power of the community to purchase the electricity that Eversource will continue to deliver to customers. The program will impact the supply charges on customers’ Eversource electricity bill, but not the delivery charges.
Newton Power Choice will provide:
- Greener electricity: The program will include more renewable energy than Eversource provides. (Massachusetts law requires that a minimum amount of renewable energy be included in all electricity sold in the state.)
- Price stability: The program will provide a fixed price for electricity supply over a relatively long period of time. This will make the program different from both Eversource’s Basic Service (the utility’s electricity supply service for customers who have not signed their own contract with an electricity supplier), where the price changes every six months or less, and from many commercial offers in the market place.
- Consumer protections: A competitive procurement process will ensure a city-vetted alternative to commercial electricity supply offers that customers may be receiving in the mail or by phone. There will be no hidden costs or other hidden provisions.
New electricity choices
Program participants will have new electricity choices and greater control over the environmental characteristics and price of their electricity supply. They’ll also receive a standard amount of renewable electricity automatically, above the minimum amount required by state law, without choosing any of the options. The standard amount is still to be determined, depending in part on electricity prices at the time the city enters into a contract with an electricity supplier, likely in the fall or early winter of 2018. For that reason, the price of electricity at the standard level of renewables will not be determined until then.
Or participants can choose to:
- Opt up to 100% renewable electricity.
- Opt down to receive no additional renewable energy electricityabove the state law requirement, but retain the program benefits of price stability and consumer protections.
More than 125 communities in Massachusetts are already engaged in electricity aggregation. But no other community has done what Newton is doing, which is to undertake an ambitious campaign to persuade electricity customers to opt up to 100% renewable electricity. Newton aims to have many more customers getting all of their electricity from New England renewable projects than any other community.
Participating and opting out
All Eversource Basic Service customers will be automatically enrolled. The automatic enrollment model is the state law. Customers who have already signed a contract with an electricity supplier will not be automatically enrolled, but it will be easy for these customers to opt into the program if they wish.
Participation is not required. Electricity customers may opt out of the program before being enrolled or at any time with no fee or penalty.
Ann G. Berwick is the Director of Sustainability for the City of Newton. For more details on Newton Power Choice, see www.newtonpowerchoice.com.