Adoption of program would offer power at a potentially lower rate

Dr. David Kelly, CEO of Crimson Power Solutions, met recently with Athol's Town Energy Committee to discuss the benefits of municipal power aggregation. The committee voted unanimously to recommend that the town's Selectboard place aggregation on the warrant for the 2024 Annual Town Meeting.

Dr. David Kelly, CEO of Crimson Power Solutions, met recently with Athol's Town Energy Committee to discuss the benefits of municipal power aggregation. The committee voted unanimously to recommend that the town's Selectboard place aggregation on the warrant for the 2024 Annual Town Meeting. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 12-06-2023 5:00 PM

ATHOL – Among the articles on next June’s Town Meeting warrant may be a proposal to adopt municipal power aggregation.

At its meeting on Nov. 28, the Town Energy Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the Selectboard place the issue of aggregation on the warrant for June’s Annual Town Meeting, following a discussion with Dr. Kevin Kelly, CEO of Crimson Power Solutions. Implementation of aggregation requires approval by Town Meeting voters.

Once the proposal is approved by voters, Kelly told the committee, “that allows you to go and work with the Public Utilities Commission to lay out a program and what that’s going to look like. Typically, the way those programs work, if the market is relatively low the recommendation often times is to lock it in for two or three years.”

Kelly, who has been advising the committee, said the Town of Webster signed a multi-year agreement last year, locking in power rates at 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

“Throughout all those months in the winter, when it was 30 cents through the utility, they were paying nine and a half cents,” Kelly said. “So, it’s great when you can lock in at a low price.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines municipal power aggregation as “programs (that) allow local governments to procure power on behalf of their residents, businesses, and municipal accounts from an alternative supplier while still receiving transmission and distribution service from their existing utility provider.”

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Aggregation, according to the agency, can provide more local control over a city or town’s sources of electricity, increase the use of green energy beyond that offered by its default utility, and reduce monthly electric bills for the municipality, its residents, and local businesses.

“By aggregating demand,” the agency’s web site states, “communities gain leverage to negotiate better rates with competitive suppliers and choose greener power sources.”

If Athol Town Meeting attendees vote to adopt aggregation, the entire town will be automatically enrolled and letters will be sent to everyone in town with pricing information. Consumers are then typically given 30 days from receipt of the letter to opt out. Those not responding within that period to declare they plan to stay with the town’s default provider – in this case, National Grid – will remain enrolled in the aggregation program. However, Kelly said, those who do opt out are allowed to opt back in at any time in the future.

“It’s completely flexible that way,” Kelly said. “You’ll probably see that a good amount of small commercial accounts don’t pick alternative supply contracts.”

Kelly added that if the rate for aggregation drops well below that of those using other suppliers, “you get a lot of people jumping off the contracts they negotiated themselves and hopping onto the town’s program.”

Kelly said the town will seek bids from those companies that participate in the aggregation program, “and out that group the best (price) is the one you go with. They also do all the mailing, all the contacting – everything associated with the program.”

Crimson Power Solutions will make a recommendation to the town regarding which one of the bids the town should accept. Should voters decide to move Athol into the program, Kelly said, the proposed agreement between the town and the supplier would go to the state for its review. At the moment, he added, the state is looking at ways to speed up the process.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.