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Stan Rosenberg: Big savings near on power

As the author of the municipal aggregation provision of the 1997 electric utility law that restructured the electric industry as part of a strategy to slow the growth of electricity costs, I have looked forward to the day when local municipalities would organize and take advantage of this provision to aggregate their purchasing power to obtain better rates for themselves and their residents.

I am especially pleased that our local Hampshire Council of Governmentse has emerged to administer this proposal here in western Massachusetts.

Since the electric utility restructuring law, the Hampshire Council has gained relevant experience in the electricity market and demonstrated its ability to manage this next step in the Massachusetts electricity revolution. Hampshire Power, the Council’s local, nonprofit electricity supply service, has a successful track record of saving its 100 municipal customers over $1.6 million, compared to the default electricity price since 2007.

Using this knowledge and through its Municipal Aggregation Plan, the Hampshire Council now offers to help residential and business customers reduce their electricity costs.

High electricity costs are consistently highlighted as a barrier to economic growth in western Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Mass­achusetts has plunged from sixth to 28th in CNBC’s annual ranking of Top States for Business, in part because of the high cost of doing business and our historically high electricity costs.

The Hampshire Council’s Municipal Aggregation Plan is designed to address this by combining the purchasing power of 28 communities and 100,000 people and by competitively and transparently bidding that load on the open market. By combining this purchasing power, the Municipal Aggregation Plan will go a long way to helping western Massachusetts overcome one of the prime barriers to economic growth and will enable ordinary homeowners to retain more of their hard-earned money.

In addition, any revenue generated from the program will be reinvested locally, creating more jobs, more money-saving programs and solving more regional challenges through innovation, creativity and action. Another central feature of the Council’s Municipal Aggregation Plan will be its green energy and conservation options that will facilitate investments in local clean energy projects. There is no downside to municipal aggregation and all this is available at no cost to the towns.

As a resident of Amherst, I was pleased when Town Meeting voted in April 2001 to pursue the town’s participation in municipal aggregation. Most of our neighbors, including Belchertown, Granby, Hadley, Leverett and Pelham, are looking forward to lower electricity prices, re-investing more money locally, and having additional green energy options in the coming months. In fact, all but three communities in Hampshire County are going to be participating and benefiting. When Amherst is added to the mix, all those participating will enjoy even more benefits because the larger the aggregation the better the savings.

I eagerly look forward to the approval of this program by the Department of Public Utilities and to the possibility that every town in Hampshire County will be enjoying the benefits of this money-saving program.

State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg is a Democrat from Amherst and is the President Pro Tem of the Massachusetts Senate.

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