By John Anderson
Auburn’s Community Choice Municipal Aggregation Plan was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities on September 17th, and many residents may have questions about what the future will hold. Yesterday, Town Manager Julie Jacobson included an explanatory article in the October town newsletter, The Auburn Account, which can be accessed through the town’s website. There is no reason to repeat her words in total, but a few facts should be emphasized.
Municipal aggregation plans in Massachusetts are opt-out by law. History yields information about how many National Grid customers will opt-out at the start of the program, and the town’s energy consultant Colonial Power Group needs that number to solicit bids from electricity suppliers. Only residential and small business customers served by National Grid are included in this program, and it only covers the supply of the electric bill since National Grid will continue to service distribution by maintaining power poles, wires, meters, etc.
There are several goals of municipal aggregation plans, but financial stability is the primary one. The Grid’s spike to 16¢ per kilowatt-hour this past winter put many families under stress, but the drop in the spring to 9.3¢ helped a lot of folks. The plan would level off the costs for a period of time, usually at least one year. Colonial will seek bids that are as close to the lower rate as possible, and the final decision to approve the rate rests with the Town Manager. There is no reason to approve a plan that does not benefit residents, and a consistent rate throughout the year makes budgeting expenses possible.
Brian Murphy, President of Colonial Power Group, told Auburn Mass Daily that aggregation plans can be used to choose power suppliers with limited environmental impact like hydroelectric. “Ultimately, we want it to be about greening up the supply.” Murphy and the staff at Colonial Power are more than happy to answer questions from residents and small businesses. They can be reached at 508-485-5858.
Customers can opt-out of this plan at any point, but they can’t opt back in. This is important for those who think this isn’t a good idea, especially since the Grid rate for this upcoming winter is almost 14¢/kWh. It would be good to see the rate Colonial obtains before opting out. Residents and businesses that are currently locked into a contract with another supplier will be allowed to opt-in if their contract expires or they can break it without penalty.
There is much more to come on the municipal aggregation program for Auburn, and Auburn Mass Daily will continue to provide information and updates.