By Frank Mand
Posted Mar 28, 2018 at 10:00 AM
In December the supply element for standard Eversource customers increased between 2 and 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour, a more than 20 percent increase.
If you paid less for electricity this winter say thank you to Patrick Farah and Plymouth’s Planning Department.
Last year Farah, Plymouth’s energy officer, proposed that the town participate in what was called the “Municipal Choice Program,” which was intended to reduce the cost of the supply side of electricity for all municipal and residential customers of Eversource.
The promised benefits at the time were meager, at least when considered on an individual basis, Farah telling town officials at the time that annual residential savings would equate to the cost of a free fast food lunch one time a year.
But, Farah also pointed out then, taken as a whole the town could save a little over $1 million in that first year and given that the program would require a three-year commitment, that would also mean freezing the town’s electrical rates during a time when rates were predicted to be volatile.
With little fanfare the Board of Selectmen approved the contract and in October of 2017 Plymouth went live with its aggregation plan locked in at a supply rate of 0.1033/KWh (10.33 cents) for 36 months.
The immediate reaction of the public was, for the most part, silence. Few noticed the changes in their bill, which still came from Eversource.
Some unhappy residents objected on principle to the change to their bills being made without their permission. If you did nothing you were included in the program but to “opt out” you had to make a special request.
Some residents did just that: they opted out and continued to pay Eversource’s standard rates for electricity.
When the program began the Eversource summer supply rates were 10.57 cents per kilowatt hour, a difference of just 24 hundredths of a cent compared to the rate offered though the aggregation plan.
In December, however, the supply element for standard Eversource customers increased between 2 and 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour, a more than 20 percent increase.
That one-time free lunch the town had offered suddenly grew to dinner and dessert at a nice restaurant several times a year: through the winter aggregate customers were seeing monthly savings of between $80 and $100.
But what about those that objected, on principal, to the town’s action?
Farah had actually negotiated a contract that allowed Plymouth residents to opt out, or opt back in, any time they wanted.
“That’s not something they usually offer, but I felt that since this was the first time Plymouth residents were being offered a program like this that it was important that they had this option.”
Even with that option many residents were skeptical about the benefits.
“The original opt out percentage was 5.4 percent,” Farah said, which equates to over 1,500 customers.
“But when the prices went up I had a lot of calls from residents begging to be opted back in.” Farah said. “And with this program, unlike others, you can opt in and out as many times as you want.”
Farah readily admits that those savings could evaporate when Eversource goes out to bid on power again.
Their winter (2018) Supply Residential Rates now range from 12.6 cents to 13.1 cents per kilowatt hour and will be in effect until June 30. But Eversource goes “shopping” for power every six months.
Their summer rates could drop, even to a level below the Municipal Choice Program’s 10.33 cents, though Farah doesn’t believe that likely.
Even if the supply prices fluctuate the Choice program will remain consistent. That it itself an important benefit.
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.