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.