Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci signed the nation’s first community choice legislation in 1997. Massachusetts is also home to the country’s oldest municipal energy aggregator (MEA), Cape Light Compact, which also launched in 1997. As of March, 2023, the state has approved 176 MEAs, which represents almost half of the state's municipalities.
In late 1994 State Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Energy, introduced a Competitive Franchise bill (S.447, 1995) to allow local governments to create “Consumer Service Districts” that would procure electricity for their residents using a competitive bidding process. His bill was based on concepts that were the brainchild of CCA pioneer Paul Fenn. After nearly three years of debate and revision, the Utility Restructuring Act of 1997 was signed into law.
MEAs in Massachusetts are initiated by municipal elected bodies. Aggregation programs must be developed in consultation with the Department of Energy Resources and approved by the Department of Public Utilities. As in other states outside California, most of the Commonwealth’s aggregators focus on rate savings rather than environmental benefits CCAs in Massachusetts are initiated by municipal elected bodies. Aggregation programs must be developed in consultation with the Department of Energy Resources and approved by the Department of Public Utilities. As in other states outside California, most of the Commonwealth’s aggregators focus on rate savings rather than environmental benefits, although that is changing. In 2017, the Community Empowerment Act, meant to stimulate renewable power production at the municipal level was filed but did not pass the legislature.
Commonwealth law prohibits a profit mark-up on the energy supply portion of utility services. As a result, Massachusetts electric utilities have not opposed MEA formation.
Massachusetts is very active in the CCA space. The general perception is most new municipal aggregators are opting to be green aggregators, exceeding the state RPS by at least 5% through the use of Class 1 renewable energy credits. Most programs also offer a 100% renewable option at a small price premium.
The City of Boston launched its own program last year (BCCE), which is now the largest CCA in the state. All three of the program's product offerings (which are in effect through December, 2023) are lower than Eversource's basic rate. Other Boston area towns are working on ways to optimize their CCA programs to facilitate the development of community based solar + storage projects.
CURRENT AND EMERGING ISSUES
Published in March, 2023, a study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Sustainable Policy Lab finds community choice energy aggregation programs have reduced costs, increased sustainability. Most notable study results include 80% of municipalities with CCA programs achieved reduced rates; 89% of municipalities with contracts exceeding state renewable energy level requirements achieved savings of approximately $33,500,000 per year. Access to the full study can be found HERE.
A bill introduced in early 2023 sponsored by Senator Crighton and Representative Moran: SD648 / HD3214, An Act relative to electric ratepayer protections would ban third party power suppliers from signing up new individual residential customers in Massachusetts. According to a report out in May, 2023 authored by Attorney General, Andrea Campbell, shows that over a six year period, (from July 2015 to June 2021), consumers paid $525 million more than if they had received supply from their utility, and that the approximately 430,000 residential customers who are enrolled with third party suppliers lose an average of $231 per year. Evidence also shows low-income customers and people of color are more likely to be pulled in to these programs than the overall population.
Despite over 170 programs active in the state, the DPU is dragging its feet in reviewing and approving new or updated programs; as of April, 2023, over 20 communities have been waiting, some for over 2 years. A new bill introduced in April, 2023 from Rep. Tommy Vitolo of Brookline and Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester will set a 90 day deadline for the DPU to review and plan amendments. Two of the three DPU commissioners have also recently been replaced, shedding new hope that the current administration will be more supportive of CCA.
Rising electricity prices due to several factors are affecting Massachusetts residents and businesses, much the same as everyone across the country. For those communities that have Community Choice Energy programs with energy contracts extending into late 2023 and early 2024, they will be protected by the rise in winter rates from the state's IOUs. For example, Medford's program will be about half the price of National Grid's winter price, which went into effect on November 1, 2022. See article HERE.
State Rep. Michael Kushmerek, D-Fitchburg, and state Sen. John Cronin, D-Leominster, filed legislation in the 2021/2022 session to make it easier for cities and towns to form utilities. The bill stalled in the Senate, and has been introduced numerous times over the last two decades.
A report on Green Municipal Aggregation from the Green Energy Consumer Alliance can be found here. According to their analysis, in 2022 the aggregation programs in Massachusetts will add well over 500,000 megawatt-hours per year of demand or Class I renewable energy. Several aggregations are adding five percent Class I green power, but increasingly aggregations are coming in at ten percent additional Class I green power or more. If the trend towards high percentages is sustained, it's possible to see 700,000 megawatt-hours per year of additional renewable energy attributable to municipal aggregation by 2022.
The map below from the report shows the state of GMA in Massachusetts as levels of additional Class 1 content.
Source: Green Energy Consumer Alliance, 2022
Boston's long-awaited CCE program launched in February, 2021, and residents are automatically enrolled unless they opt out. Constellation New Energy offers three rates for consumers: Optional Basic, Standard and Optional Green 100, ranging from $0.10959 to $0.14764 per kilowatt-hour. These rates also vary in what sources are used to supply that energy, with the Green 100 option entirely supplied by renewable resources.
The City of Newton, population ~ 80,000 launched Newton Power Choice in May, 2019. Residents and businesses in Newton were buying renewable electricity to match 62% of their electricity use at that time. Newton’s standard energy package is the cleanest in the state, with an 82% renewable mix, with Lowell (65%) and Brookline (50%) following
In the summer of 2020, the Town of Arlington changed their CCA’s name from Arlington Community Choice Aggregation to Arlington Community Electricity (ACE). Launched in 2017, the name change is part of a fresh campaign designed to better inform the community about their electricity options and how participating in the program can help combat climate change. More than 14,000 households and 1,000 businesses participate in the ACE program. Most customers are enrolled in the standard product, Local Green, which has 11 percent more renewable energy than required by state law. The ACE program also offers three other electricity options, this includes the ability to opt up to either 50-percent or 100-percent extra, renewable electricity, called Local Greener and Local Greenest.
In November, 2020, Westborough Power Choice began providing cleaner electricity to Westborough residents and businesses through a new electricity supply contract with Dynegy. Westborough will buy an additional 20% of its electricity from renewable sources, in addition to the minimum amount required by state law. In addition, participants in the 100% Green plan, which is the 100% renewable electricity option, will begin receiving all of their electricity from renewable energy sources within New England. Previously, participants in the 100% Green plan received most of their electricity from wind projects outside of New England. Town Manager Kristi Williams claims that since its launch in 2016, Westborough Power Choice has saved the community $4.7 million.
Like Westborough, the Town of Easton’s Community Choice Power program launched in November, 2020. The aggregation rate is $0.10287/kWh, below the Nov. 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021, National Grid Basic Service rate of $0.12388/kWh. Easton is also offering an optional opt-up to 100% National Wind RECs for $0.10377/kWh. Standard supply customers will collectively save over $600,000 in this six month period. Over the three year term of the agreement, Easton customers will collectively save an estimated $2.2 million in electricity costs.
Since the city of Somerville’s program launched in 2017, Somerville ratepayers have saved over $5 million on their electric bills, and today nearly 30% of Somerville’s electricity supply is from local renewable sources. In Salem, ratepayers have saved $3 million, and the city is boosting its percentage of local renewables from 23% to 33% starting in December.
RENEWABLES PORTFOLIO STANDARD
Massachusetts has three electricity portfolio standards.
Massachusetts updated its renewable portfolio standard in 2018, requiring 15% of electricity sales to come from new renewable sources installed after 1997 by 2020 and increase 1% annually thereafter. The RPS also requires a certain amount of electricity sales to come from existing renewable sources, operating before 1998. The annual percentage varies annually.
The state has a 2009 alternative portfolio standard, requiring 5% of electricity sales to come from alternative energy generation by 2020 and increasing 0.25% annually. Qualifying alternative energy generation include: combined heat and power, flywheel storage, and efficient steam storage.
A Clean Energy Standard was adopted in 2017, requiring 80% of electricity sales to come from clean energy sources by 2050. The clean energy requirement is in addition to the renewable portfolio Class I requirements, though compliance with renewable portfolio Class I counts towards the clean energy standard.
LEGISLATION (PARTIAL LIST)
Potential legislation of note: The Attorney General’s Office announced recently that their office plans to file legislation abolishing residential competitive electric markets, with the exception of municipal aggregation (as per Maggie Downey, Cape Light Compact.
The Utility Restructuring Act of 1997 created the possibility of retail choice through municipal aggregation and through market aggregation. See General Law Chapter 164, Section 134.
The goal of the Green Communities Act of 2008 is to help Massachusetts cities and towns find clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen local economies. See General Law Chapter 169.
Page last updated 5.23.23
Municipal green energy program in Northampton, Amherst, Pelham revs up. June 2, 2023, Daily Hampshire Gazette
End the DPU’s stall on municipal electricity aggregation. April 29, 2023, commonwealthmagazine.org
Study finds community choice energy aggregation programs have reduced costs, increased sustainability. February 7, 2023, techxplore.com
Lawmakers press state on municipal power agreements. February 22, 2023, Eagletribune.com
Marlborough continues to save on electricity. January 27, 2023, communityadvocate.com
Mayor Sarno announces RFP to pursue Green Municipal Aggregation program to provided Utility Relief for Residents and Businesses. January 20, 2023, springfield-ma.gov
As electricity rates soar, many Berkshires customers have a cheaper option. Here's how that works. January 12, 2023, The Berkshire Eagle
Town of Avon Releases Information on Community Electric Aggregation Rates. jgpr.net, October 21, 2022
How the DPU is preventing communities from lowering utility bills — and carbon emissions. October 16, 2022, bostonglobe.com
Somerville’s new electricity contract offers some hope. commonwealthmagazine.org, October 6, 2022
Community Choice Electricity Program to Provide Stable Electricity Costs, Double the Renewable Energy. October 4, 2022, somervillema.gov
Community supply programs could help some avoid skyrocketing electric bills. September 30, 2022, cbsnews.com
Community Members Enrolled in Dighton’s Community Electricity Aggregation Program will be Unaffected by National Grid Winter Rate Hike. September 30, 2022, jgpr.net
Medford To Provide Energy Cost Relief To Eligible Residents. September 30, 2022, patch.com/massachusetts
Why Shrewsbury Has Some Of The Cheapest Electricity Around. September 26, 2022, patch.com/massachusetts
How The MA Climate Bill Helps Brookline Meet Clean Energy Goals. August 16, 2022, patch.com
Municipal energy coming to Hampshire County. June 23, 2022, wwlp.com
Massachusetts Legislature Moves Forward with Reforms that Would Reshape the Energy Sectors to Achieve Climate and Economic Development Goals. April 11, 2022, lexology.com
Cape Light Compact peddling e-bike rebates. March 15, 2022, MV Times
Powering Municipal Aggregation With Offshore Wind. March 8, 2022, Green Energy Consumer's Alliance
MA House Passes Offshore Wind Bill With Rep. Vitolo's Amendment. March 7, 2022, MSN.com/news
Unusual Story of an Energy System Developed by a Handful of Activists and Used by 36 Million People. February 21, 2022, SciTech Daily
Hadley’s electricity program to run through 2024. December 29, 2021, Daily Hampshire Gazette
Low-income communities could be saving money on energy while helping the climate, but the DPU is standing in the way. December 26, 2021, Boston Globe
Here’s how to save money on your electric bill in Boston-You could be on a 100 percent local, renewable electricity plan from sources like solar or wind and be paying less than Eversource's basic service. December 15, 2021, boston.com
Rockland renews bulk electricity purchase plans, increases renewable energy rate. The Patriot Ledger, November 23, 2021
Planning agency releases best-practices guide to help communities reach net-zero emissions. American City and County, November 22, 2021
Salem Makes Carbon-Neutral Power Push With New Energy Deal. September 22, 2021, patch.com
Beverly Community Electric program expected to launch in early 2022. July 28, 2021, Wickedlocal.com
How Massachusetts cities and towns are leading our transition to clean energy. June 27, 2021, Masslive.com
Dalton Approves New Solar Incentive for Low-Income Residents. June 9, 2021, iBerkshires.com
The municipal solution to climate change. Aggregation can play a big role in reaching goals. June 4, 2021, CommonWealth
Cape Light Compact Announces New Electric Pricing. June 3, 2021, capenews.net
Low-cost vs. renewable energy: What is the right choice for Lancaster residents? May 28, 2021, telegram.com
Two Dartmouth businesses reach 100% renewable energy milestone (with a combination of solar panels and the town's electric aggregation program). May 26, 2021, Dartmouth Week
Sustainability Comm. backs aggregation. May 10, 2021, Canton Citizen
Energy aggregation would be a win for Canton pocketbooks. April 27, 2021, Canton Citizen
EMC Looks at Residents’ Cost to Go Green. March 28, 2021, The Wanderer
An Opportunity for Clean Electricity for Medfield. March 22, Patch.com
In Massachusetts, utility’s community solar plan leaves developers skeptical. March 5, 2021, Energy News Network
Milton To Launch Municipal Energy Aggregation Program. February 11, 2021, Patch.com
As Boston gets on board, community power compacts gain steam. February 1, 2021, The Herald News
Boston's ready to join dozens of other municipalities in renewable energy push. January 3, 2021, Boston Globe
State releases decarbonization roadmap. December, 2020, MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Arlington Community Electricity (ACE)
Melrose Community Electricity Aggregation
Colonial Power Group (a leading aggregation consulting firm in Mass.)
Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC)
Constellation Energy Power Choice, Inc.
Mass Power Choice (serving 26 communities)
Good Energy (consultants)
NextEra Energy Services (energy supplier)
Dynergy (energy supplier)
Direct Energy (energy supplier)
List of all approved MEAs in the State
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS
CCA-Enabling Legislation: Acts 1997, Chapter 164
U.S. Energy Information Administration, Massachusetts State Energy Profile
Massachusetts Alliance for Municipal Electric Choice
MAPC's Municipal Net Zero Playbook (November, 2021)
MA 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap (published in December, 2020, State Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs)
MA Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030 (published in December, 2020, provides details on the actions the Commonwealth will undertake through the 2020s to ensure the 2030 emissions limit is met)
Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER)
Green Energy Consumers Alliance
Cape & Vineyard Electricity Cooperative (A non-profit that assists its 20 member communities in financing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects)
The Climate Reality Project, Massachusetts Southcoast Chapter (advocacy group)
Colonial Power Group (Aggregation consulting firm)
Department of Energy Resources (Mission: creat a clean, affordable and resilient energy future for the Commonwealth)
Department of Public Utilities (Regulates IOUs and MEAs)
Energy and Environmental Affairs Department (Cabinet-level office that oversees the environmental and energy agencies)
Green Communities Program (A program of the Energy and Environmental Affairs Department)
Local Power, Inc. (Paul Fenn’s company web site. Fenn is the founder of the Community Choice movement.)
MAPC Clean Energy Guide (Resources for greening a community from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.)
Mass Energy Consumers Alliance (A non-profit whose mission is to make energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable.)
Mass.gov Municipal Aggregation Page
New England Coalition for Affordable Energy (advocates for the expansion of the region’s natural gas and clean electricity infrastructure)
INVESTOR OWNED UTILITIES
Eversource (Western Massachusetts Electric & NSTAR)
Unitil (Fitchburg Gas & Electric Light)