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.
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, which are described on this page of the Mass Energy Consumers Alliance’s web site. 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 2018 paper on GMA from CASS CEA can be found here. This map from the report shows the recent state of GMA in Massachusetts as levels of additional Class 1 content.
The City of Newton, population ~ 80,000 launched Newton Power Choice in May, 2019. Residents and businesses in Newton are buying renewable electricity to match 62% of their electricity use, which is the highest amount of any community electricity aggregation program in Massachusetts. The program offers three electricity choices: Basic at 16% renewable (the minimum required by state law), Standard at 62% renewable (the default program), and 100% Green at 100% renewable.
After a unanimous vote to adopt Community Choice Aggregation at the October 4, 2017 City Council meeting, Boston finally received approval to launch their program in July, 2020. Eversource’s Boston customers will be switched over to the new program in early 2021. About 190,000 residential accounts and 31,000 business accounts could be in play in Boston. In March, 2019, Colonial Power Group was selected to coordinate the program.
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 will 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.
Colonial Power Group (a leading aggregation consulting firm in Mass.)
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS
CCA-Enabling Legislation: Acts 1997, Chapter 164
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)
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.