The proposed article’s passge could mean lower electric bills, but do not expect any concrete changes for at least two years
At Cohasset’s Annual Town Meeting later this month residents could change from whom they receive and how they pay for their electricity.
Article 16 will ask residents to decide whether the town will seek out and negotiate discounted electric services through bulk purchasing.
The objective of what is known as “Electric Billing Aggregation” is not only to find discounted rates for energy, but also to offer cost-efficient options for renewable energy sources and to eliminate seasonal price fluctuations.
A lengthy process
The process for aggregation would be a lengthy one before any real changes are seen by residents.
If the vote passes at the Annual Town Meeting, the town manager and the Board of Selectman, or their designee, will be authorized to devise a plan to change energy providers for the town.
Then there will then be a vote at next years town meeting to determine if that plan will be adopted or rejected, according to Steve Wenner, a member of the Cohasset Alternative Energy Committee, which proposed and supports the article.
If voters were to give a green light at both town meetings, then the town would negotiate with power generators for a contract. The Board of Selectmen would decide if any bids were acceptable and choose the best one. The expectation is that the plan would offer several options a base plan with the minimum percentage of renewable generation mandated by state law and, perhaps, two green-up options,” Steve Wenner wrote in a letter to the Cohasset Mariner. (Read the letter, page A7).
Additionally, during the enrollment period, residents will be sent a form for them to indicate which option they would like to pick.
Options will likely be a choice of how much renewable energy they would like to make use of. Renewable energy plans would be the green-up options mentioned by Wenner.
Residents with the default National Grid service who do not reply will be automatically enrolled and changed to whichever new energy provider is selected for the town, unless they decide they want to opt out.
They will also be put on whichever option the Board of Selectman decides is the default option, and it may not necessarily be the cheapest option.
Residents will be allowed to opt out at any point during the enrollment period, or even after the change in energy provider occurs, with no penalty.
Those who already have a third party energy provider will not be automatically enrolled, but can opt in if they want to.
This particular article shows up on the Town Warrant twice as it was proposed as a citizens petition and then ultimately adopted by the Board of Selectman.
A few members of the Board of Selectmen were initially hesitant to endorse the article because of concerns over the fact that since residents are automatically enrolled, their energy provider could change without them knowing, had they not been aware of the change and their ability to opt out.
Support for Electric Billing Aggregation seems to be strong in the community and communities like Cohasset.
According to a survey from UMASS Clean Energy Extension: Approximately 116 Massachusetts communities have aggregated electricity plans and, on average, the power of bulk purchasing has saved their residents money. Of the 56 towns that have offered Green Up options for 100 percent renewable energy, 80 percent have negotiated prices that were even below the basic utility rate.
One successful model for aggregation, according to Wenner, is what was chosen in Newton.
Newton residents were given three options: A base plan with the state minimum of 14 percent renewable energy, an option with 60 percent renewable energy and an option for 100 percent renewable energy. In Newton, all three options were cheaper than what residents had been paying prior to aggregation.
In Plymouth, the aggregation plan was 28 percent cheaper than its resident’s initial utility rate and the town saved $3.2 million for residents during the first year of the program.
Scituate passed an aggregation article last fall. Marshfield is in similar situation to Cohasset, with an article on this year’s town meeting warrant, and Quincy also is moving forward on an aggregation plan.