New electric rates set for community electricity aggregation program
Over 8,000 Wareham residences and businesses get their energy from a community electricity aggregation program. The rates for the next two years of that program are now set, and they include an increase in costs from the previous contract.
The community electricity aggregation program allows Wareham to purchase energy in bulk for its residents and businesses, giving it negotiating power with energy suppliers over cost, rate stability and renewable energy supplies.
The new contract locks in rates from December 2023 through November 2025. It has two price tiers: a standard tier, at 15.784 cents per kilowatt hour, and a "Wareham Plus" tier, which supplies 100% renewable energy at 17.372 cents per kilowatt hour.
The previous contract had a basic rate of 10.470 cents per kilowatt hour, and a 100% renewable energy rate at 14.019 cents per kilowatt hour.
The increase in energy costs comes from increased pressure on global supply chains, according to representatives of Good Energy, the company running Wareham's community electricity aggregation program.
"We saw last winter some of the highest electricity prices ever, largely due to supply shocks with the invasion of Ukraine," said Patrick Roche, director of Innovation at Good Energy.
He added, "We've seen some of the volatility there continue. There's a lot of uncertainty about the global supply chain and how available gas will be, and its price."
This volatility didn't reflect in Wareham's rate until this point because of the long-term rates secured by the community electricity aggregation program.
"Where the utilities — Eversource, the National Grid — change [rates] every six months, we have programs that can lock in 12 to 24 months of a stable rate," explained Allison McNeil, a client success specialist with Good Energy.
Eversource had a basic service rate of 25.78 cents per kilowatt for residential customers in Eastern Massachusetts last winter. That rate fell to 16.08 cents per kilowatt, and will go to 17.25 cents per kilowatt from January through July of 2024, as was approved by the state on Monday, Nov. 27.
"We are pleased to see lower supply rates this year after experiencing big winter spikes the last couple of years," said Eversource Executive Vice President of Customer Experience and Energy Strategy Penni Conner.
Good Energy representatives emphasized they cannot guarantee a lower rate than Eversource's basic service, due to the more frequent changes of Eversource's rates, but said community electricity aggregation programs have some advantages in bargaining for prices, including more flexibility in the timing of when they go to market.
"You can put that [advantage] all in trying to have the lowest price, or many towns … will use some of that savings to add extra renewable energy," said Roche.
A small subset of customers in Wareham have bought into the higher tier of service with 100% renewable energy.
Roche explained every amount of electricity that's generated and put onto the grid has a "certificate" which says, among other things, whether renewable sources were used to generate it.
The electricity supplier uses the certificates to ensure the money spent on renewable energy goes toward getting renewable energy on the electric grid.
"If you're in a 100% renewable product, [your energy supplier] will make sure that they have purchased renewable certificates in the quantity matching 100% of your usage," Roche said.
The majority of Wareham customers do not opt for the higher rate.
The concept behind the adoption of the community electricity aggregation program in Wareham was to save residents money, said Select Board member Alan Slavin.
"I've had no one come back to me and say, 'Hey, it didn't work. It cost more money.' I've had just the opposite," said Slavin.