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 January 2021, the state has approved 168 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 has applied to form its own CCA, which will make it the largest in the state, pending approval from DPU. 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
Members of the legislature have expressed interest in the potential of MEAs to lead in renewables procurement and energy efficiency programs. The Commonwealth’s ambitious Green Communities Act (2008), top energy efficiency ranking by the ACEEE, and vigorous pursuit of rooftop solar and offshore wind development create a context for the expansion of clean power procurement by Massachusetts MEAs.
Some towns are participating in, or considering, Green Municipal Aggregation programs. In a nutshell, participants in Green Aggregation programs purchase Class I RECs to provide five percent (5%) more green power than required by the state’s RPS. Five percent is described as a target that supports more renewable energy on the local power grid while keeping the rate competitive with the electric utility. Some Green Aggregation programs also offer customers the option to purchase enough Class I RECs to offset 100% of their usage.
A 2020 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. As of April, 2021, 80% of its electricity is from clean, preferably local sources.
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.
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.
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
Colonial Power Group (a leading aggregation consulting firm in Mass.)
Good Energy (consultants)
NextEra Energy Services (energy supplier)
Dynergy (energy supplier)
Direct Energy (energy supplier)
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS
CCA-Enabling Legislation: Acts 1997, Chapter 164
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)
Cape & Vineyard Electricity Cooperative (A non-profit that assists its 20 member communities in financing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects)
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.)
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)
Page last updated 4.11.22