Acton Power Choice

At the April 2016 Acton Town Meeting, voters approved the Town pursuing a municipal electrical aggregation program. The fruits of this vote will show up, for most of us, in our October electricity bills, in which the energy supplier will change from Eversource to Dynegy, the supplier for the new Acton Power Choice program. That “supply” rate will go down from 10.729 cents per kWh to 10.720 cents per kWh. That's a small drop in the rate, but the price is good for two years — at a time when Eversource rates are going up steadily.

Eversource customers in Acton who don't have an alternate energy supplier will receive a letter in mid-August explaining how the Acton Power Choice program works, and their options. The program will offer two choices: Acton Power Choice Standard (rates described above), the “default” option into which everyone will be enrolled, and from which people can opt out at any time and return to Eversource as a supplier; and Acton Power Choice Green, which people can “opt into.”Power Choice Green will feature 100% local renewable energy for a bit less than 2 cents more / kWh;Power Choice Standard will feature the 10.72 cent rate, and 5% more renewable power than the 12% that Eversource is already required to provide.

You can learn more about this program on the Acton Power Choice website: ActonPowerChoice.com.

Getting Deregulation to Work for Residents

For those who may have missed that part of the 2016 Town Meeting, here's some background:

In 1998, the Legislature partially deregulated the power market in Massachusetts. Electric bills were broken up into supply and transmission charges, and customers could choose alternate suppliers beyond the company that had the monopoly on transmission (in our case, that was NStar, which became Eversource). Many businesses took this opportunity to cut their electricity costs. Most residential users did not, because the options were confusing and difficult to investigate, and most consumers did not have the time or stamina to do the research. Lately, you may have gotten letters or phone calls from various companies offering alternative electric supply. Some emphasize the money savings. Some emphasize increased renewable energy. All are difficult to evaluate: is the offer real? What is the length of the contract? Is the price a special introductory offer that goes away? What are the costs for leaving the supplier? What do they mean by ”more renewable energy”?

In 2015, the Legislature took another step to improve residential customer access to the electricity supply market by approving a program for community choice aggregation. What this means is that towns and cities can negotiate with electric suppliers as an entire municipality. The legislation requires that individual customers can opt out at any time and return to Eversource, including a special 30-day period during which people can opt out before being switched in. The letter from the Town (due to arrive on or before Aug. 15) will explain this in more detail.

After the Town Meeting vote in 2016, the Town Manager evaluated a few consultants and chose Peregrine Energy to guide the Town through the process of developing this program. In consultation with Town staff and others, Peregrine drafted the proposal, brought it through the required vetting with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) and Department of Energy Resources (DOER), and then helped the town prepare and evaluate bids from suppliers. The chosen company was Dynegy, which operates several power plants and delivers power to customers in many states. They have recently won a number of municipal aggregation contracts in the Commonwealth: they have apparently decided to become a big player in this market, and have been providing winning prices. The Town chose to go with a 24-month fixed-price contract with Dynegy — the longest term the enabling legislation allows for a fixed contract — because the price was already lower than Eversource's current generation charge, and, as best as energy analysts can tell, Eversource's prices are headed upward.

The How and Why of Renewable Energy

Personally, I'll be choosing to pay the extra not-quite 2 cents / kWh for the 100% renewable energy option, but that's clearly not the choice that everybody will make. The experience in other towns with aggregation programs is that most people choose to stay with the default option (in our case, Acton Power Choice Standard). From a financial and environmental point of view, that's a sound choice. Price savings are locked in for two years, and the mix of energy will include 5% more renewable energy than Eversource Basic Service provides.

If you want to know more about the renewable energy portion, here are the basics: Utilities in Massachusetts are required to provide a slowly increasing portion of their energy from renewable sources. That requirement is part of the Massachusetts commitment to reduce carbon pollution. Since electrons all look the same, there are separate accounting systems to keep track of who is producing and who is buying renewable energy. These are called Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) programs. The organization that keeps track of these for the New England grid goes by the odd name of "NEPOOL GIS." On the New England electric grid, a REC represents one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable energy. Operators of solar, wind, hydro, and other renewable sources of power are credited for RECs for every MWh of power they produce. The price is set by an auction process. Utilities and other buyers of electricity buy these RECs, and the shared accounting system ensures that every REC has at most one buyer. Dynegy will be buying extra RECs to match the contract requirements for all of their Acton customers. When there is more demand for RECs, their price goes up, providing extra incentives for potential producers of renewable power to build more capacity in New England.

Acton Power Choice: Good for You and Good for Acton

The Acton Power Choice program will save money for most Acton electricity customers, and will help drive demand for more renewable energy in New England, In turn, that demand creates local/regional jobs and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions of New England electricity generation: a win all around.

The best ways to get questions answered about this program are:

or attend one of the informational sessions:
  • Thursday, August 31 at 7:00 PM in Room 204 in Acton Town Hall
  • Thursday, September 7 at 7:00 PM in Room 204 in Acton Town Hall
  • Tuesday, September 12 at 1:00 PM at the Acton Senior Center at 30 Sudbury Road
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Comments

WHAT ENERGY GENERATOR IS RENEWABLE

I have read in Time Magazine and the Boston Globe wind energy is not financially viable without extensive Federal money. Also, wood (trees) is not a renewable energy source because generally the only wood that burns hot enough is from old growth forests, not the trees we plant in place of the old growth trees. On top of this, think of the pollution associated with making the energy sources and the pollution they cause (wind turbines, for example, kill many birds and disrupt airflow patterns and are quite noisy).

Learn more about Acton Power Choice Thursday Aug 31

The first informational meeting is 7 PM Thursday Aug 31 at Town Hall. Get all your questions answered much more quickly than waiting for me to write a response here! The three meetings are
  • Thursday, August 31 at 7:00 PM in Room 204 in Acton Town Hall
  • Thursday, September 7 at 7:00 PM in Room 204 in Acton Town Hall
  • Tuesday, September 12 at 1:00 PM at the Acton Senior Center at 30 Sudbury Road
. If anyone isn't sure if they got the letter, a copy of it is here: greenacton.org/2017/08/25/heres-the-official-acton-power-choice-letter-of-august-2017/. Other answers can be found at ActonPowerChoice.com

Jim Snyder-Grant is a member of Green Acton - more at http://greenacton.org. More about me at http://snyder-grant.org/jim. Or - just contact me at 978 266-9409 or jimsg@newview.org

Yes, I pay an electric bill now.

Scott wrote up a scattering of questions and accusations. Let me start with the simplest one: Yes, I pay an electric bill now. I've switched to air source heat pumps for heating and cooling, and an induction stove, so now I pay more in electricity, but no more gas bill. (Another time, we should talk about how and why to stop using methane ["natural"] gas).

Jim Snyder-Grant is a member of Green Acton - more at http://greenacton.org. More about me at http://snyder-grant.org/jim. Or - just contact me at 978 266-9409 or jimsg@newview.org

I just posted what you stated

I just posted what you stated in your post now and your post then. Another simple one to answer: how much will switching me save me on my $50 a month bill in the remaining months of this year? My calculations tell me like less than a nickel. Am I right?

And what is left unsaid...

- Now there is another new middleman making an administration fee. Someone has to pay for that. No awards for guessing who is going to end up paying for it. - Supply rate is just one component of the electric bill. Isn't delivery charges the one that keeps going up? - Everyone is going to be switched over whether they like it or not. The letter that was due to arrive August 15 has not showed up in my mailbox - and it is August 19 - No stretch of imagination can call 0.009 cents less (on 10.729 cents) per KWh a winning price. Wonder why this article does not mention what other towns are paying? Lexington with same consultant ended up with 10.32 versus 10.72 for Acton. Chelmsford with 9.30. Ouch. - Now normally you would expect someone to tell you how much this would save you in dollar terms. Mr Author, can you tell me how much this save me on my $50 bill (supply being 40% of the total?)? - Does the author really pay for electricity - 2c more or not? I thought the author has solar panels?

Why Acton's new electricity price is a good one.

There were multiple companies bidding for the right to supply Acton's electricity: the best price was chosen. We don't quote a total savings over the two years, because the Eversource prices change every 6 months, while the Acton price is staying the same for the whole two-year contract. Historically, Eversource prices go up in the winter, so larger savings will most likely happen starting in January. Anyone can opt out of the program at any time, so if Eversource prices surprise everybody by being lower, you can switch back. Comparing prices to other towns is not a helpful measure of the competitiveness of the price, because prices change so quickly over time, and because wholesale prices, including the regulated parts, vary a lot from region to region. Finally, the town meeting motion and vote included a goal of increasing our renewable energy portion. The new default option has more renewable power than Eversource, while still keeping the price below the Eversource price. Scott is correct that the delivery portion of the price is separate from the supply portion, and is hovering around 50% of our bill. The same delivery price applies whether you are getting your electricity from Eversource or from Acton Power Choice. Eversource owns the wires, and is compensated for that in the same way no matter who the supplier is. If you have a power outage, it is still Eversource that you contact, and it is still their responsibility to get your supply connected again.

Jim Snyder-Grant is a member of Green Acton - more at http://greenacton.org. More about me at http://snyder-grant.org/jim. Or - just contact me at 978 266-9409 or jimsg@newview.org

Flashback from the past...

"Hello Fellow Actonians: I take great pleasure in getting my electric bill these days. How can that be? Because in most months my bill is $0. ... " http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/jimsnydergrant/solarize-acton-how-reduce-your-electric-bill-now

Acton Power Choice - explained on Acton TV

Acton TV has produced a show on the Acton Power Choice program. You can see it at actontv.org/on-demand/post-video/acton-power-choice-implementation-aug-2017. It has more details than in this article.

Jim Snyder-Grant is a member of Green Acton - more at http://greenacton.org. More about me at http://snyder-grant.org/jim. Or - just contact me at 978 266-9409 or jimsg@newview.org