Westhampton’s power aggregation plans advance with public review

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 07-11-2023 9:01 AM

WESTHAMPTON — Following in the footsteps of many other Massachusetts cities and towns, Westhampton is taking its next step toward implementing a Community Choice Power Supply Program, which would bring together the buying power of participating residents to negotiate reduced power supply rates and seek more renewable energy options.

The plan, which opened for public review on Monday, was developed in consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and Colonial Power Group Inc., an energy consulting company that helps municipalities create and manage aggregation programs.

“Most people assume that the utilities are out there purchasing energies on their behalf … but they’re actually not doing anything advantageous with the purchase, just buying systematically,” said Mark Cappadona, president of Colonial Power Group. “One of the useful parts of these aggregations is that they allow consumers to actually manage their electricity cost and change when the market changes.”

Community choice aggregation, also called municipal aggregation, allows cities and towns to choose where its electricity supply comes from. Under the basic service plan, which is currently the default, Eversource supplies and delivers electricity. Under a power aggregation plan, Eversource still delivers electricity, but the town chooses an alternative electricity supplier, often one with more renewable energy.

Consumers can choose whether or not they want to participate in the program.

“Everyone that is on basic service will receive a mailing 30 days before the program starts, and they will have a decision to make,” said Cappadona. “If they do not decide to opt out of the aggregation program, they will be switched from basic service to the aggregation supply… and they won’t even notice the change other than they’ll be paying slightly less on electricity.”

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While savings are not guaranteed, the switch to an alternative electricity supplier typically reduces rates and keeps prices stable.

A UMass Amherst Sustainable Policy Lab report from March found that among Massachusetts municipalities that have established community choice power aggregation programs, around 80% offer reduced electricity costs compared to basic service rates. The savings, on average, amounted to 0.88 cents per kWh, or about $93 annually per household.

As for the programs’ environmental impact, the same study found that 60% of those programs have a higher percentage of renewable energy certificates than the Massachusetts renewable energy requirement.

After public comment, Westhampton’s plan will be sent to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities for approval. The town’s consultant Colonial Power Group will then circle back with five to six options for potential suppliers.

Public review is open until August 11 at 5 p.m. Those wishing to comment can do so at the town clerk’s office, by email at administration@westhamptonma.org, or by postal mail to Administrative Assistant Douglas Finn.

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com or on Twitter @MaddieFabian]]>