By Jim Sullivan
NEWBURYPORT — Local National Grid customers are in line to save about $2.2 million combined on their electric bills this winter after the city recently entered into a community choice power agreement, according to officials.
National Grid raised its basic electric rates to 33.891 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers and 32.287 cents per kilowatt hour for commercial service from Nov. 1 through April 30.
The rate increases are expected to elevate the average residential monthly electricity bill from $179 to $293, or an increase of roughly 64%, for a National Grid customer who uses 600 kilowatt hours per month in the winter.
But because the city recently entered into a community choice power agreement with Colonial Power Group and the Marlborough-based residential electricity aggregator, it is expected to lower electricity costs for National Grid’s basic service users by roughly 36% beginning in January and running through April.
kA municipal aggregation program allows local government to combine the purchasing power of its residential and business customers to provide them with an alternative electricity supply.
The city has entered into a split-term, 10-month contract with Houston-based Direct Energy Services, which, according to a press release, will provide residents and businesses with cost savings throughout winter and part of spring.
Mayor Sean Reardon said in the press release that his administration is excited to announce the Newburyport Energy Program, which will provide relief to residents and potentially provide a collective savings of more than $2.2 million for residents.
“The program’s 10-month term protects the ratepayers from these historically high costs but doesn’t lock the city into these elevated prices beyond that, should the market stabilize,” the mayor said.
Beginning with January meter reads, the Energy Program’s standard plan rate will be $0.21760 per kilowatt, down 36% from National Grid’s winter residential basic service price of $0.33891 per kilowatt.
The rate is also expected to drop down to $0.13320 per kilowatt in May and last until next November.
Recycling and Energy Manager Molly Ettenborough said it took roughly seven years for Newburyport to become an electricity aggregated community.
No interruptions in billing, power or customer service are expected to take place and customers will continue to receive one bill from National Grid, where they will send payments.
Electricity supplier Direct Energy Services of Houston will appear on monthly bills under “Supply Services,” and residents are not expected to notice any change in their electric service.
All residential and business customers with National Grid’s basic service have automatically been enrolled in the program, which also gives people a chance to opt out.
Residents who choose to opt out of the program can re-up at no cost at a later date and no enrollment, early termination or cancellation fees apply.
“That’s one of the nice things about this,” Ettenborough said. “The city is doing the vetting for residents. We went out to bid for a supplier and we are managing the contracts. So people don’t have to worry about the term and whatnot.”
Residents can expect to receive a letter from the city, describing the benefits of the energy program, by the end of the week and information sessions designed to answer any questions regarding the energy program will also be offered soon.
Information sessions will take place at Plum Island Taxpayers Hall on Monday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m.; Newburyport City Hall on Monday, Nov. 28, at 1 p.m.; and at the Senior/Community Center on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m.
“If people have questions about the program, they should definitely come to one of these sessions. This won’t be National Grid talking. It will be the city and Colonial Power Group talking about the aggregation program,” Ettenborough said.
She also said National Grid has several programs designed to help income-eligible customers and families meet their energy needs. For more information, go to: nationalgridus.com/MA-Home/Bill-Help/Payment-Assistance-Programs.
“People should take advantage of the Mass Save Rebate Program in particular,” Ettenborough said. “That is when you have an auditor who comes to your home and does a free energy audit, which you are already paying for in your bill. They will do a free audit of your home and make recommendations about insulation and energy-saving techniques. If any work is required, there are often incentives, rebates and 0% interest programs,” she said.
Residents can also call 866-485-5858, ext. 1, or go to colonialpowergroup.com/newburyport to learn more about the city’s Community Choice Power Supply Program.