State OKs Valley Green Energy program for Amherst, Northampton, Pelham




Staff Writer

Published: 05-20-2024 10:11 AM

AMHERST — A program offering Northampton, Amherst and Pelham residents more electricity supplied by green sources should be ready to launch by this fall.

Amherst officials announced on May 8 that the state Department of Public Utilities recently approved the Valley Green Energy Community Choice Aggregation application from the three communities.

In 2018, the partnership between Pelham, Northampton and Amherst was created, and in June 2022 they signed a memorandum of understanding to engage Mass Power Choice in the project. Mass Power Choice in October 2023 then submitted the application to the state agency.

Under the proposal, electricity is purchased as a group, with the three communities using their collective buying power to buy electricity more competitively, and increase the amount of renewable energy in the electricity supply.

Through the program, residents and businesses are expected to have new choices and greater control over the cost and environmental impact of the electricity they use. Though Valley Green Energy doesn’t guarantee savings, the hope is to have competitive and stable prices and better consumer protections.

“We are grateful to Mass Power Choice for their guidance and expertise in ensuring all three communities provided the materials, resources and followed the requisite processes to make our application a success,” Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said in a statement.

As lead community, Amherst worked closely with Mass Power Choice and convened a community information session last June.

“In all the years we have held these public sessions, we have never had such robust community attendance or been asked such challenging questions,” Paul Gromer, a consultant with Mass Power Choice, said in a statement.

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At the community information session, Gromer explained that Cambridge has used its program to build its own renewable energy project that now produces power for those enrolled, while on Nantucket, a similar program has supported incentives to help homeowners put solar arrays on their properties.

“It is exciting to finally be moving this effort forward,” said Amherst Sustainability Director Stephanie Ciccarello. “The three communities, along with resident advocates, have worked diligently over the last several years to bring greater electricity supply options to our communities.”

When implemented, community members who currently receive basic service from their utility provider will be automatically opted in. Valley Green Energy doesn’t replace National Grid for Northampton customers, or Eversource for Amherst and Pelham customers, as those companies will continue to own the poles and infrastructure, and deliver the electricity.

A community outreach and education campaign to better inform residents in Northampton, Pelham and Amherst about the program’s membership options will occur in the coming months.