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!

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.

 

Contacting Public Officials About Community Choice Energy

To make Boston officials adopt renewable energy policies as quickly as possible, we as residents need to make our voices heard. The best way to do this is by contacting the mayor and your city councilor directly, to say that you want Community Choice Energy (CCE) available in Boston.  You may call, email or send a letter by U.S. post.

When calling an office, begin by stating your name and address. This lets the staffer  know that you’re actually a resident, not some paid political operative.

Tell the staff member that you want the mayor or councilor to support CCE. To show that your concern is genuine, you should briefly mention one something related to one of the talking points listed below (please don’t read these verbatim to the staffer, as that lessens the impact of your call):

  1. CCE will make renewable energy affordable for residents and small businesses.
  2. Adopting renewable energy will help Boston reduce its carbon emissions to fight climate change.
  3. As a city, Boston will be able to meet the terms of the Paris Accord, which will improve our reputation internationally.
  4. Renewable energy will create many new jobs in the city.
  5. Moving to renewable energy will ensure that Boston stays a center of innovation, which will attract more business to our city.
  6. CCE will stabilize our electricity bills, helping households and business to more easily plan their budgets.
  7. CCE democratizes decisions concerning electricity generation, allowing people to use the economic power of their utility bill payments to push for a faster transition to a fossil-fuel-free future.

Staff members in government offices are always busy, so be brief and stick to just one or two reasons why you support CCE. Personal reasons like owning a business in the City, living in a neighborhood that is particularly vulnerable to climate change, etc., are also effective.  Above all, be polite.  Political offices usually discard comments from rude people.

When sending an email or writing an old-fashioned letter, it’s best to follow the standard business letter format. It makes you look more credible, and the official’s staff members will take your opinion more seriously.

Format for CCE Letter

{Your street address}
{City, MA zip code}

Mayor Martin J. Walsh
1 City Hall Square, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02201

-or-

Councilor {Your councilor’s name}
1 City Hall Square
Room 550
Boston, MA 02201

{Date on which you are writing the letter}

Dear Mayor Walsh -or- Councilor {Councilor’s Name}:
{Body of the Letter}

Sincerely,
{Your name}
{Your email address}

In the body of the letter, introduce yourself as a resident of Boston and indicate your home neighborhood.  Then in one or two sentences, ask the mayor or your councilor to support CCE, and explain why you want them to.  You may use one or more of the talking points listed above.  Keep the letter short and courteous. End by asking the councilor or mayor to let you know where they stand on CCE.

If you send your letter via email, feel free to cc City Council President Michelle Wu and City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who are leading the effort to pass a CCE authorization in City Council: Michelle.Wu@boston.gov or Matthew.OMalley@boston.gov. We also encourage emails to the three other at-large Councilors: Ayanna Pressley,  Ayanna.Pressley@boston.gov; Michael Flaherty, Michael.F.Flaherty@boston.gov; and Annissa Essaibi George, A.E.George@boston.gov.

Contact info for all the Councilors is available at: https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council.

Green Power for Everyone in Boston

Join us December 8 to bring renewable power to everyone in Boston!

People want green energy, and there is a simple way for everyone to get it. Massachusetts law allows a city council to decide that all the electric customers in the city will get some of their power from clean, fossil fuel-free sources. That means everyone in Boston can get renewable electricity, even if they can’t put a solar panel on their roof or switch to wind power. And it means we’ll cut Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions – fast.(If a resident or business wants to opt out, they can.)

We just have to convince the City Council to vote “yes” for climate justice and clean energy. We’ll launch this new campaign on Thursday evening December 8, place to be announced. Save the date and pitch in!

Our Action Team meets next Thursday
October 27, 5:30 at First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain (corner of Centre and Green/Myrtle Street, across from the post office). Join us for updates and action steps on the new clean energy campaign, our ongoing gas leaks campaign, and more.