Newton Power Choice: Topic Meeting notes now available

Notes from LWVN Topic Meeting on Newton Power Choice
Date:  November 15, 2018 8:00 am
Location:  Durant-Kenrick House
Presenter:  Ann Berwick, Director of Sustainability for the City of Newton
Assisted by: Marcia Cooper, President, Green Newton
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Most Newton residents have their electricity delivered to them by Eversource.  Eversource procures its electricity from various suppliers in the marketplace and then charges its customers based on a “Basic Service” contract.  Rates under this contract fluctuate every six months depending on what is required by state law and from whom the electricity is purchased.

State law requires that a certain percentage of electricity sources come from renewable energy.  In 2018, that percentage is 13%.  In 2019, the percentage increases to 14%, and beginning in 2020, the percentage will increase by 2% annually.

State law permits municipalities to contract directly with electricity suppliers in the marketplace, and then offer its residents a rate based on a form of purchasing know as electricity aggregation.  Municipalities do this to obtain price savings for its residents and to integrate more renewable energy into the community’s electricity supply.  Approximately 140 municipalities have done this.

In 2017, the Newton City Council voted to pursue electricity aggregation and, beginning in March 2019, the city of Newton will join the ranks of those municipalities that provide city-vetted alternative electricity sources to its residents.  Before that, though, residents will have some input into the electricity program choices and will have opportunities to opt-out, opt-up and opt-down.

On November 27, the city will go out to bid for its electricity sources.  The mayor has expressed strong interest in increasing the amount of renewable energy integrated into it aggregate electricity supply beyond the current 13% required by state law.  Many municipalities do this.  Most increase their renewable electricity sources by anywhere from 1% – 5%.   Brookline has used its municipal aggregation program to increase its renewable energy by an additional 25%.  Generally, this increase in renewable sources results in only an incremental increase, if any, in a resident’s electricity bill.

Mayor Fuller would like to increase the amount of renewable energy integrated into the city’s electricity supply to an amount even higher than Brookline, and has asked residents to respond to a survey asking how much more they would be willing to pay for renewable energy.

After November 27 and before March, when the new program goes into effect, Mayor Fuller will determine, based on the bids the city receives from electricity suppliers, and based in part on the response from the survey, how much more renewable energy will be included in its electricity purchase.  The decision as to what percentage of renewable energy to include in its program is, however, finally at the discretion of the mayor (the city council has given the mayor the authority to make this determination on her own).

When the program goes into effect, pursuant to state law, all residents will be automatically enrolled in this electricity aggregation program.   Eversource will continue to deliver electricity to residents, and residents will continue to call Eversource if there is a power outage.

Sometime before that, though, each resident will receive a letter from the city explaining the new program, and giving residents three options:

  1. Opt-out. You can opt out of the program, in which case, you will continue to get your electricity supplied by energy sources obtained by Eversource (or you can contract directly with another electricity supplier), which will include only the amount of renewable energy required by state law.
  2. Opt-up. You can increase the amount of renewable energy that is included in your electricity supply by up to 100%.
  3. Opt-down. You can opt down to receive no additional renewable energy in your electricity above the state law requirement, but you will remain in the municipal aggregation program and retain the cost savings and other benefits associated with that program.

Unlike Eversource, or other electricity suppliers, there will be no fee charged in choosing any of these options.

Some additional thoughts on the program:

  • The Mayor has expressed a desire to see Newton’s renewable energy percentage go up by about 40% above what is required by state law
  • It is expected that the additional cost to increase the amount of renewable energy included in Newton’s electricity supply to the amount desired by the mayor would be about $3.00 a month
  • 25% of Newton’s carbon emissions comes from the use of electricity.  This is the biggest thing that Newton can do, as a city, to lower its carbon footprint without impacting individual choices or actions

The City of Newton is doing an on-line survey and telephone poll to get public input on how much renewable energy to offer as the standard option in its new electricity contract for residents and businesses, the Newton Power Choice Program.  Currently, the state requires only 13% renewables, increasing by 2% each year.  The Newton Coalition for Climate Action (NCCA) thinks Newton needs to do a lot better.  NCCA advocates for the City of Newton to include a significant amount of renewable energy, 40% more, as the standard option.  How much will more renewable energy cost?  See the CHART at https://masspowerchoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Newton_RenewableEnergyCostEstimate_102318revision.pdf .

Take the Newton Survey:  https://app.involved.mobi/question/296/ .”

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