Pittsfield considering cost-saving measure for Eversource customers

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PITTSFIELD — The city is looking to group purchasing of electricity that could provide cheaper, greener power to thousands of local Eversource customers.

Under a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) plan under consideration by the Pittsfield Green Commission, an energy consultant would assist municipal officials in buying the most cost-effective electricity for the city's home and business owners.

Eversource would remain the distributor, but the city would choose the supplier — with the potential savings realized only on the supply side of one's electric bill, according to Mark Cappadona, president of Colonial Power Group in Marlborough.

"You're truly bringing choice to the community," he said at Monday's commission meeting.

Pittsfield hired Colonial to help develop its CCA, which requires City Council approval and would be administered through the mayor's office, aided by Colonial. The city would begin to solicit offers from electricity suppliers after the state Department of Public Utilities gives the final OK to the accord.

If approved, the city would join 14 other Berkshire communities with CCA's, with Egremont and Sandisfield also considering such a plan. — all clients of Colonial. The public has until Feb. 2 to review the proposal, which is on file with the City Clerk, the Pittsfield Department of Community Development and online at www.cityofpittsfield.org; click on "Hot Topics."

The benefits of bulk purchasing were evident in the fall of 2014, when Colonial negotiated a group purchasing agreement with Hampshire Power on behalf of North Adams, Dalton, Lenox, Williamstown and six other Berkshire communities.

While National Grid rates jumped by about 37 percent last winter, customers participating in the bulk purchasing agreement with the Northampton-based supplier saw their bills climb about 24 percent.

Cappadona on Monday said Eversource customers automatically become part of the CCA, unless they choose to exit the program and go with the utility's supplier of choice. There is no charge to opt out, but should a customer decide to opt in, enrollment can take up to two billing cycles before taking effect.

A CCA doesn't impact the electric bills of customers on budget plans, receiving eligible low-income rates and/or getting net metering credits from rooftop or ground-mounted solar arrays.

Pittsfield home- and business owners using a provider other than Eversource wouldn't be eligible to participate.

The agreement does allow for renewable energy — solar, wind, hydropower — to be part or all of the electricity supply package, according to Cappadona.

"We can bring any shade of green you are looking for," he said.

Ward 6 Councilor John Krol, a commission member, cautioned renewable energy doesn't necessarily equal savings.

"If you're going to try and be more green, it's still costing us more, right now," he said.

Furthermore, city officials say a CCA doesn't always guarantee a cheaper supplier than the ones Eversource uses.

"We're under no obligation and can throw out all the supplier offers [we get]," said James McGrath, the city's open space and natural resource program manager.

Should Pittsfield's chosen supplier go belly-up, Cappadona says it would be no problem.

"If the supplier goes out of business, the lights don't go out — you go back to the basic service [of Eversource,]" he said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233


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