Hearing set for Hadley electrical aggregation plan

Staff Writer
Friday, January 05, 2018

HADLEY — A program in which electricity would be purchased in bulk to reduce utility bills for the average homeowner is nearing reality for the town of Hadley.

A Department of Public Utilities hearing is scheduled for Jan. 17 in Boston that could see approval for Hadley’s municipal electrical aggregation plan, in partnership with Good Energy, L.P. of New York City.

Town Administrator David Nixon said Thursday that approval by the state agency would bring the town a step closer to having a program similar to one administered through the Hampshire Council of Governments that provides savings in power costs at Hadley’s municipal and school buildings.

“Residents of Hadley will have the same ability to aggregate their purchasing power with other towns in the commonwealth to purchase electricity at a discounted, bulk rate,” Nixon said.

While it is uncertain what kind of savings Hadley residents might see when Good Energy goes out to bid for electric rates, which it can do upon approval by the public utilities department, Nixon said he hopes the average homeowner’s electrical bill is reduced by $100 per year.

Residents would be automatically enrolled in the program when it launches, but have an opt-out ability. Those who choose to leave the program would continue to receive basic service provided by their electric distribution company, in this case Eversource.

In addition to the lower costs, the program could mean longer-term price stability and possibly more renewable energy options, though Nixon said that is uncertain. Hadley is already a leading proponent of green energy, from the ease in permitting solar farms to supporting installation of the anaerobic digester at Barstown’s farm.

Electricity aggregation has been a long-standing goal for Nixon since the state, in 1997, passed legislation allowing for a competitive electricity market, by restructuring the industry and establishing energy plans through municipal aggregation.

Nixon said he promoted electricity aggregation while town administrator in Deerfield and has done so since coming to Hadley in 2005, including having Town Meeting take a vote Oct. 27, 2005, supporting such an endeavor.

“I liked the concept and have tried to pursue the concept for a while,” Nixon said,

At the town level, what HCG has done has given a fixed rate that will remain in effect until October 2019 and has stabilized what the town pays for energy prices.

The Select Board selected Good Energy as its aggregation consultant June 8, 2016. John O’Rourke, a member of Conway’s Select Board, is the local representative for Good Energy. On Oct. 31, 2017, Hadley filed its request with the Department of Public Utilities.

The DPU public hearing on the proposed municipal aggregation plan takes place at 2 p.m. Jan. 17 at the department’s offices at One South Station, 5th Floor, Boston.

People can comment in person or send letters to the agency.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.