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Boston wins state approval to get into the electricity business; will offer lower-carbon voltage to residents

Mayor Walsh announced today that Boston has won state approval for its Community Choice Electricity program, under which the city will pay for electricity from renewable-power and lower-carbon generators for re-sale to city residents and businesses, helping curb the city's overall carbon emissions and possibly save consumers some money.

Eversource's Boston customers will be switched over to the new program in early 2021, the city says - although customers will be able to opt out of the program before it starts.

Eversource will continue to provide the actual wires and cables used to transmit the power - as well as billing and customer service. Residents and businesses that do stay with the city program will see a new line item on their bills representing the cost of the power from Community Choice. The city says it is hoping its bulk purchasing will mean reduced monthly bills, although it added it can't guarantee that.

City Councilors Michelle Wu (at large) and Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) first proposed the idea in 2017; the city applied to the state Department of Public Utilities for permission to set up the program in 2019.

In a statement, Walsh said:

Community Choice Energy will help Boston deliver electricity in a way that is safe, affordable, and convenient for all residents. As we continue our work to achieve carbon neutrality in Boston by 2050, creating affordable energy options represents Boston's commitment to equity in all our environmental goals.

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Comments

Who knock on your door and numerous Attorney Generals sued for deceptive business practices. You could see a lower bill.

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This probably will save consumers money. Also, it will reduce their carbon footprint. That's important.

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They would make it opt-in, not opt-out. It might be interesting to follow the money to see which renewable energy producers are making campaign contributions to City of Boston politicians.

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Opt out is a deceitful practice.

They are hoping to get power for less by forcing everyone into the program , no guarantees though.

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You just have to read and stay aware.

You know, like in a democracy?

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Are, unfortunately, not options for some people in our society.

Despite some of the highest funding levels in the country, Boston's public schools are far from good, and judging from the dropout rates, education is very much optional.

There are also immigrants. It's simply unreasonable to expect all of them to learn English instantaneously - or even over decades, as long as they continue to work full-time in minimum wage jobs with no opportunity of advancement.

So yes, this opt-out nonsense is a deceptive practice.

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You know, like the city already does for most things, they can send out the notices in more that one language.

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Voting for Trump were an opt-out thing?

I mean, just have to read and stay aware.

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They are opting people in, not sending literature for you to read so you can give your permission.

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If the government of your city (which has little oversight on the electrical market to start with) decided to switch your electricity provider to those people who go door to door but made sure there was a notice in your bill, which you barely look at except to see what you owe, saying so, you’d be okay with this because... democracy?

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Those door-to-door salesmen were working for profit-taking companies.

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In both of my examples, the customer is having their energy companies switched without them realizing it.

Look, this initiative sounds great. The City should hype it and get as much buy in as possible. Doing it this way is very sketch. With the exception of municipalities that have town power companies (i.e., not Boston), municipalities have no say over utilities. This looks like something someone with legal training and time on their hands could litigate and win.

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or stay aware. I suspect the City is counting on this.

"We presume you want to change unless you say otherwise" should never be an acceptable business practice. Especially when we're talking about a basic necessity like electricity.

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They would make it opt-in, not opt-out.

This makes no sense. Why would the city want to make it more difficult to take advantage of the program? This is a dim conspiracy theory supposing that Big Renewable is doing something nefarious, when the real cheaters are the fossil fuel producers and users.

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Why aren't private companies allowed to opt you in to their service?
They need your permission to switch you but the city does not. Its not a conspiracy theory if you don't know you have been switched and your energy bill increases for 2 months before you realize it. I hope it works but the government shouldn't get to do what they forbid others from doing.

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the government shouldn't get to do what they forbid others from doing.

Like arresting people and sending them to jail? How about requiring adherence to building codes, or medical licensing?

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And building codes to buying electricity?
I have no reply for that.
If the city makes it a law You have to buy electricity from them then it would be a law, as it is now it's just a program they would like us to participate in.

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While saying they shouldn't do things they prohibit other organizations from doing.

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Really ?

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The City sends residents tons of materials by mail on a regular basis -- from census forms to information on recycling. It really wouldn't be hard to send a mailer with instructions on how to opt-in to the City renewable plan rather than counting on the fact that people will just be too lazy to opt out.

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why are you expecting them to get off their asses to opt *in*?

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We have this in Lexington. The town monitors the price to ensure the cost to residents.

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I'm a fan.

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Think of it as water in a pipe. You can’t send electrons created at a “greener” plant to your specific house. Doesn’t work that way. Martha Coakley made this illegal when Bostonians were paying double to say they were buying from 8 windmills in on a mtn in western Mass. This had the (intentional?) affect of hurting Cape Wind. The people who wanted to support it could not while Cape residents We’re threatened with being forced to pay double. I don’t know how the law has changed to allow this.

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I hope nobody thinks the electricity going into their house is actually being routed from a windmill farther away. It's like oil/gas companies- they put oil in the pipe, they take oil out the other end, it's all the same oil running through.

But the benefit is real- the more this happens, the more demand for renewable, and a bigger slice of the generation starts to come from renewable.

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They were quite content to pay double so they could tell themselves they "bought" their power from a windmill out near Mt. Tom, while their power actually came from someplace like the Mystic plant in Everett. Those 8 windmills sold much more power than they ever produced. This meant free money to the power companies, not something that I feel makes them want to change their business.

Still, it is a shame we couldn't have funded Cape Wind in this way, with people who supported it contributing. It would be built today if that were the case.

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This is cool. Now do muni fiber.

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With neither the state nor the feds taking anything that could reasonably called initiative, the communities in MA that have muni fiber only got it through long, dogged efforts by residents who volunteered their time to find providers, create plans and get buy-in from their fellow residents and taxpayers, who have to assume some risk that their taxes will go up. You only get something like this by hard grassroots effort to get that level of agreement. It is not gonna happen in Boston.

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Yeah, I know, but a boy can dream. I remember Walsh saying something about it when he first got elected, but then I never heard another word. When they made the deal with Verizon to bring back FiOS I knew it was never gonna happen.

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Tax dollars used to fund usage of more cars.

Got it.

Way to go Marty.

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The city's "hope" that prices will be lower is not enough for the many Bostonians who are low-income, especially if the program is opt-out. The poor, many of whom are under-educated and may be intimidated by the opt-out process (not to mention immigrants who can't go through an English-only process), will undoubtedly be hurt most if the city doesn't deliver.

A possible solution: a city subsidy that automatically kicks in to make up the difference if the program's rates exceed Eversource's basic rate. Since this program will allegedly advance environmental justice, it might be possible for the subsidy money to come out of Community Preservation Act funds.

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Is for Eversource to lower their rates

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Since deregulation, our $/kwh is broken out into transmission and delivery charges (Eversource for the infrastructure that brings the electricity to your house) and supply (what we actually consume and what is being offered by the city as part of their deal). Eversource is prohibited from providing the supply part of the bill by deregulation - they are not longer in the generation business. All the for profit companies that would profit from deregulation convinced voters that they would benefit and save $$, which hasn't always been true. What is true is that, unlike a for profit supplier, the city is passing through the electricity supply at their cost without a markup - how can a for profit company provide a better deal than that? We're getting the benefit of an entire team of energy managers getting better deals for all of us as a group with the discount of large bulk purchasing and the benefit of renewable energy being in the mix and they aren't profiting off of this. As someone that used to be involved in this for Fidelity, I know that this is a good deal.

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The Community Preservation Act law enacted by the state legislature in 2000 and updated in 2012 would not allow CPA funds to support this clean energy program. It can only be used for affordable housing, parks and open space, and historic preservation capital projects. Unfortunately clean energy would not be considered historic preservation, but the installation costs may be eligible for affordable housing or a park renovation with lights or other electricity needs. But it would still be a leap.

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including Somerville, where I live. I'm surprised that it has taken Boston this long to join in. The usual term is "community aggregation".

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All the Somerville community aggregation rates are above the Eversource Basic Service generation rate. Somerville also enrolls its electric customers by default into a plan which is more expensive than their basic plan (which doesn't bump up the renewable energy component above the state minimum).

So, indeed, savings are most definitely not guaranteed.

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they get a better deal with a guaranteed minimum purchase per month and are passing on their savings to the residents. Cities have people whose only job is to negotiate and investigate purchasing deals, unlike residents. They also have historic consumption information so they have an idea of what they need per year (fluctuates with weather of course) - they are setting contracts that exceed this and passing on the savings to us. No purchasing program guarantees that one plan will be cheaper than the other thanks to deregulation - watch the Smartest Guys in the Room to see how Enron took advantage of that and precipitated the California Energy Crisis (they didn't run out of energy, just were forced into situations that ran up debt to Enron who then wouldn't sell them more even though the prices and debts were artificially high). So the City is spending our tax money more responsibly, sharing their expertise and savings with us at no extra cost or effort, and collectively lowering their and our carbon footprint. Seems like a great deal to me but of course this is Boston so people will complain and layer in their own issues. Opt out then. Sounds like if you have a problem with it, it's your problem.

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Than most people, They cant operate our school system properly and efficiently and now they are getting into energy purchasing, It's no surprise some people are skeptical.

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Yeah, that's why almost nobody uses the Post Office, or calls the fire department, or - yes - sends their kids to public schools. You government-haters really ought to go establish your own libertarian country somewhere where absolutely everything is privatized, and stop trying to screw up the governments that provide us a measure of civilization.

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Wow, you read a lot into a comment.
My kids go to Boston Public schools...and they suck.
I'm allowed to point that out without a lecture from an angry internet person about me being a government hater.
Try decaf.

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I apparently mistook your statement that anon had more faith in government than most to mean that you don't have faith in government. Your complaints about the school system obviously aren't serious, since you inflict it on your own children. My apologies for thinking you are a libertarian pinhead.

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Some of us have no choice but to use the School System, If my complaints aren't serious why would you use the word "inflict"
Criticizing our government is a right we have, especially when the criticism is accurate.
Pointing to other Government agencies is not a rebuttal, especially ones who are in danger of going bankrupt or being sued for overtime and disability fraud.

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Pointing to other Government agencies is not a rebuttal

Then why are you talking about the school system in a thread that's about supplying electricity? It sure looked like you were using the supposed failures of the school system as proof that the city government is incapable of operating this much simpler program. How come you get to do that, but when I do it, you complain that it's "not a rebuttal?" That's a big double standard you got there.

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They are purchasing it on citizens behalf with an "opt out" scheme, my mentioning the School system was making a point on how ineffectual they are at operating it and why people are skeptical of them getting into the energy purchasing field..
You need to reread the posts and replies, you seem confused.

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The only thing I am confused about is your belief that you're making sense. You aren't.

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Stay safe.

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