WHITMAN — The Select Board, on Tuesday, Aug. 16 again began discussions about a possible Community Choice Aggregations plan in town.
“This is something the board has discussed before my time here, and I don’t know if it went anywhere,” Select Board member Justin Evans said, saying he was bringing it before the board because he felt it is worth bringing before the annual Town Meeting in May. “I think it’s worth revisiting.”
Such aggregations give municipalities the option of sourcing another electricity provider on behalf of its residents. Hanson is also currently working on such an aggregation.
“These are often using more renewable energy and are cheaper than the current provider,” Evans said of the community aggregation plans in communities that have already adopted the program.
“We looked at this shortly before I retired,” said acting Town Administrator Frank Lynam, noting then-assistant Town Administrator Lisa Green had been researching it. “The idea behind it is, if we’re going to purchase aggregate energy, we’re going to save some money.”
Lynam said that some people might be resistant to change or may feel that a cent or two per kilowatt hour (KWH) makes it necessary to ensure the benefits are clearly explained to people before the Town Meeting even votes on it.
He said he believes there is still funds left in an appropriation voted two years ago for an energy consultant on a solar study before the town ended up entering a purchase agreement with NexAMP, which has saved the town a significant amount of money.
“This process takes several years,” Evans added.
Rockland’s community aggregation base rate is about 11 cents/per KWH, in Pembroke it is 10 cents/KWH and in Halifax, it is 10.7 cents/KWH. National Grid’s base rate is 14 cents/KWH for National Grid.
While the town signs a contract, individuals are not required to and may opt in and out. For 100-percent renewable sources, Rockland charges 14 cents/KWH – the same as Whitman’s present rate.
“Right now, any resident can either buy their electricity through a utility, or they can sign a contract with a third party to provide that electricity, although the distribution would still come from their local utility,” he said. “This opens up a third option where the municipality sources electricity from another provider so those individuals could have two base rates or they could find their own third party electricity provider.”
A Town Meeting vote would be required to initiate such a program, followed by development of a plan with the Department of Energy Resources — often done with a consultant — and a citizen review of the municipal aggregation plan before it is submitted to the Department of Public Utilities for review and approval.
Board Vice Chair Dan Salvucci said he is paying less for third-party electricity.
“Anyone can go online and buy electricity from whoever they want and National Grid just bills you,” he said. “Why do we need this?”
Evans said that aspect of buying electricity would remain, but under a community aggregation, the town would change the default provider for residents, giving them the option of going with that new price, going back to National Grid or choosing their own third party provider.
“The towns that do this usually run separate website for residents to select [an energy provider],” Evans said. There are also tiered options for renewable energy sources, from the base rate to others ranging from 100 percent renewable to combined sources. A renewable energy certificate is issued.
“It creates a market for more wind and solar,” he said.
Select Board Chair Randy LaMattina said it was a good “preliminary discussion” that can be picked up for further talks during the year.
“Anything we can do to save money, whether it be one cent at a time, is still saving money,” he said.