CCE Before the City Council

During the Boston City Council meeting on August 2, Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Matt O’Malley introduced an order authorizing the City of Boston to research and develop a community choice energy (CCE) contract and to solicit bids from alternative electricity suppliers. The order stipulates a default offering with at least 5% more renewables than is currently required by state law, with an option to opt up to 100% renewables.

In her remarks, Councilor Wu thanked Mayor Walsh for his advocacy on climate change issues. “Minutes after [President Trump’s] decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord,” she said, “Boston was in the national news announcing that we would proceed no matter what.” However, she went on to stress the importance of adding CCE to the portfolio of climate measures already planned by the Walsh administration. “For the safety of our neighborhoods with heat island effects, and so many other ways that climate change disproportionately hurts low income residents and the seniors and those medically vulnerable, we have to do more to reverse climate change,” Wu said.

Councilor O’Malley echoed the need to do more. “I wanted to let you in on a little secret,” he said. “The City of Boston has won a number of awards for being environmentally courageous and showing leadership. The secret is that we don’t deserve it yet. But we can. A great first step to do that will be passing community choice energy.”

Eight other city councilors – Campbell, Ciommo, Essaibi George, Flaherty, Jackson, LaMattina, McCarthy, and Zakim – have co-sponsored the order, indicating their interest in studying it further. As the next step in the process, the City Council will hold a hearing, anticipated this fall. Stay tuned for the date, and go to the Community Choice Energy website to sign our petition!

Addressing Concerns About CCE Costs

Mayor Walsh has said he’s committed to making Boston “carbon free” by 2050.  Community Choice Energy (CCE) could be one step towards reaching this goal.  The City of Boston would negotiate with a green power company to increase the percentage of renewable energy available to residents and small businesses by five percent. However, there are concerns that consumers would have to pay higher electric bills, and that the City might face additional expenses in staff time, due to research and negotiation for a CCE contract.

Based on the experiences of other cities and towns in the Commonwealth, CCE rates can be negotiated to be comparable to the Eversource default. Of the seven Massachusetts municipalities that have bid on renewable energy this summer, five of them (Arlington, Cambridge, Lexington, Somerville, and Sudbury) have obtained CCE prices lower than the Eversource default. In the Town of Arlington, residents who choose CCE pay  $0.10756 per kilowatt hour, while those who choose the Eversource default pay $0.10759 per kilowatt hour.

In Arlington, thanks to lots of preliminary work done by Mothers Out Front (MOF) and Sustainable Arlington, preparing the Warrant Article for the Town Meeting to vote on CCE took about 25 hours of municipal staff time. According to Anne Wright of MOF, the Town Manager, Adam Chapdelaine, spent about four hours finding a broker and selecting a renewable energy supplier.  Once the contract was signed, Communications Director Joan Roman spent about 40 hours creating print and digital outreach materials to explain CCE to the public.  This adds up to a total of 69 hours of municipal staff time spent on implementing CCE in Arlington.

If renewable energy costs rise after one year of a municipality being on CCE, it can always decline to renew the contract. However, with a template for CCE already in place, negotiating a future contract, should renewable energy costs come down, will not cost much in terms of municipal staff time.

The City of Boston can learn a lot from other municipalities that have already implemented CCE, and avoid reinventing the wheel. The benefits would be tremendous.  In one year alone, CCE could result in the investment of approximately 17 one-megawatt wind turbines, creating many new local jobs.  It would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, eliminating the need for new pipelines to transport fracked gas, keeping our air and water clean.  From a global perspective, CCE would reduce Boston’s carbon footprint, helping us meet Mayor Walsh’s goal of a “carbon free” city, while bringing us closer to fulfilling the Paris Accords.

CCE in the JP Gazette

The JP Gazette recently posted an Op/Ed piece explaining the case being made for Community Choice Energy in the Boston City Council.

It clearly explains the core mechanics of CCE and the goals of Councilors Wu and O’Malley.

With CCE, the City of Boston would get a higher portion of the fuel used for electricity in homes and small businesses from renewable sources like wind and solar, in addition to the 12 percent already in place. State law requires utilities to buy an increasing amount of renewable energy every year.

Toward those goals, it is hoped that the City administration comes to the conclusion that adopting the CCE in a careful way will benefit all the people and businesses in Boston and figures out how to institute CCE as soon as possible. As the Carbon Free Boston report says, “It is important that this work starts now.”

Check out the Community Choice Energy page if you’d like to learn more and why people are getting excited it.

More Choice — Not Less — Through Community Choice Energy

Some Boston residents may fear that Community Choice Energy (CCE) would take away their options, that the City would force them to purchase renewable energy at higher costs. The truth is that CCE actually gives residents more choices, including the right to opt out completely.  Before the implementation of any municipal electricity aggregation program, city officials give ample opportunity for residents to express their concerns.  Mayor Walsh and all the city councilors welcome comments at any time.

The Town of Arlington will officially begin its CCE program (which they call Arlington Community Choice Aggregation) on August 1, 2017. According to Anne Wright, Coordinator of the Arlington, MA, Mothers Out Front (MOF) Community Team, the intention was to “keep the prices the same as or lower than the Eversource default, but to increase the amount of renewables.”  The MOF Arlington Team worked with Sustainable Arlington  to educate people about Arlington’s CCE plan.  They found outreach leaders for each of the Town’s 21 precincts, and contacted Town Meeting members.  In May of 2016, the Town Meeting voted in favor of the CCE plan.  This gave the Town Manager and Board of Selectmen the go-ahead to find a supplier of renewable energy.  However, there was a stipulation that if they couldn’t match Eversource’s default prices, the CCE plan would not be implemented.

During the campaign, some Arlington residents opposed CCE because they were afraid of increased energy costs. “We had to explain that City officials would not sign a contract if the cost exceeded Eversource’s, and that when they found a lower price, it would then  be locked in, that it would not rise,” said Wright.  MOF members passed out flyers and presented slide shows.  “In every precinct, we had some kind of gathering to explain it”, said Wright.  “We had some little question-and-answer sessions in neighborhoods, where Town Meeting members could speak directly with precinct members.”  Wright even held a session in her own home.  “We made sure the pricing was clear, and that anybody could opt out if they really wanted.”

For the time being, the Town of Arlington has been able to negotiate a CCE rate that is lower than the Eversource default rate. The CCE default rate for renewable electricity costs $0.10756, while the current Eversource rate costs $0.10759.  While Eversource rates can fluctuate, the CCE rate for Arlington will remain the same for the next 20 months. Since Eversource’s rates traditionally are higher in winter than in summer, Arlington is assuming that its CCE will be lower than Eversource’s for the first 12 months of its contract term. The environmental impact of that year’s worth of additional 5% renewable electricity is about 1.5 megawatts of power that didn’t need to come from fossil fuels.

Boston can join other Massachusetts communities that are leading the way to move our electricity away from fossil fuels.  Come over to our CCE website, and sign the petition if you agree.

 

How to Avoid Getting Burned by Energy Scams

In Massachusetts, several companies sell renewable energy directly to consumers.  While some of these companies are legitimate, unfortunately, some are deceptive or even scams.  As a consumer, you can protect yourself from scammers by being aware of how they operate.

Scammers may try to reach you online, over the phone, or at your front door.  A representative may claim to be working with Eversource, but in truth, Eversource does not send out salespeople or make sales calls.  If the representative is at your doorstep, don’t invite them into your home.  Ask to see a company-issued photo ID.  All Eversource employees are required to carry them, as well as to show them upon request.

Legitimate companies expect their representatives to be polite at all times. Be suspicious if a representative is rude, pushy, or angry.  A scammer may also ask for your billing or personal information, which can lead to the scammer signing you up for an energy contract without your knowledge, or even identity theft.  Eversource and other legitimate companies keep customers’ information on file; they don’t need to ask you for it.

The most obvious sign of fraud is when a representative demands that you pay them immediately.  They may say that it’s urgent for you to get a discount, or even to prevent your electricity from being shut off.  Scammers often say you must use a prepaid debit card or wire them the money you owe.

First, Massachusetts laws require companies to notify customers in writing of a potential power shut-off.  They must also give several weeks’ notice.  Second, legitimate companies give you several payment options, and never tell you to use a prepaid debit card.

If you’re targeted by scammers, you have every right to report them.  You can check the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for a list of licensed energy companies, or call the department at 617-305-3500. You can also reach out to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office  or 617-727-2200.  If scammers threaten or harass you, call the police.

Ultimately, the best way for consumers to purchase renewable energy is through Community Choice Energy (CCE). This means that the City of Boston, instead of Eversource, would choose the source of electricity for every household and business in the city that is currently on Eversource’s Basic Service.  With CCE, the City could negotiate a fair deal that would stabilize costs for Boston residents, avoiding the twice-yearly price fluctuations we currently have with  Eversource. Also by tapping into the power of bulk buying, Boston could follow the example of many other towns in eastern Mass and increase the percentage of renewable energy in our electricity mix, at costs comparable to the less-green Basic Service.  Consumers would still get their electricity bill from Eversource, with the supply portion of the bill determined by the City. Knowing that they’re already getting more renewable power thanks to the work of city officials, city residents and businesses would have the information and confidence they need to say “no thanks” to green energy scammers.

Meet Boston’s Candidates for Mayor

This month JP Progressives will be holding Progressive Community Conversations with two of Boston’s mayoral candidates: Mayor Marty Walsh and Councilor Tito Jackson.

These Community Conversations provide an opportunity to meet the candidates, and discuss their positions on climate change. BCAN will ask Mayor Walsh and Councilor Jackson how they plan to meet the goals of the Paris Accord. We will tell them that Bostonians want Community Choice Energy (CCE) as soon as possible. We want the City of Boston to negotiate a fair deal with green power companies, so everyone can afford renewable energy.

Several cities and towns in Massachusetts already have CCE. We don’t want Boston to lag behind the rest of the Commonwealth. Come join us at these Community Conversations, and help us get CCE in Boston.

Progressive Community Conversation with Councilor Tito Jackson
Tuesday, July 18th, 7:00pm
First Baptist Church
633 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain

Progressive Community Conversation with Mayor Marty Walsh
Thursday, July 20th, 7:30pm
First Baptist Church
633 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain

Let’s show our gratitude to JP Progressives for hosting these conversations! Please register by clicking on the appropriate hyperlink(s) above.

BCAN’s Cantastoria Theater Promotes Community Choice Energy

This Saturday BCAN’s own Cantastoria Theater  will participate in JP Porchfest.  Come see our players act for Community Choice Energy, as they make their appeal in verse.  The Earth needs Boston to get CCE ASAP!

Date: Saturday, July 8th
Time: 1:00pm (arrive at 12:45 to avoid missing this very short performance)
Location: Loring-Greenough House
12 South Street, Jamaica Plain
Admission: Free

Come join us this Saturday.  Have fun, and feel inspired to make your voices heard by city officials!

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