Massachusetts residents’ rights to opt-in to alternative electricity suppliers that provide renewable energy may be stripped away in the newly introduced S.2842, a climate change focused bill. Proponents of this provision in the bill say that it will reduce predatory contracts, but opponents say it eliminates their personal choice, and hands monopoly control back to utilities like Eversource and National Grid.
In 2021, nearly half a million Massachusetts households shopped for electric suppliers other than their default utility company. The new bill proposes language that would close this market and ban competition in the state’s energy market.
This month, a petition signed by over 1,000 Massachusetts residents expressed that the bill would take away personal choice, reduce competition and innovation, and reduce renewable energy development and support.
Currently, three-quarters of the products offered in the program are 100% renewable energy contracts. Massachusetts law currently only mandates utilities to supply 51% renewable energy, meaning the bill could stand in the way of clean energy goals for the state.
“I have used alternative electricity sources under this program for 4 years. Pricing and service have always been quite competitive. Why would the Legislature want to end such a successful program and return Massachusetts to the age of monopolistic energy supply?” said David B. of Dover, Mass.
“Not only should we get to shop suppliers, but also delivery as we pay more for delivery than supply. Current rate I am paying is $0.06/kWh less than Eversource would charge. That would add 25-35% more per month to an already high electric bill,” said Ethan E, East Sandwich, Mass.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has been expressing concern about the energy choice program since her office launched an investigation into reports of deceptive contract practices. The report found that from July 2015 to June 2018, net losses for Massachusetts customers totaled $253 million.
In some cases, customers intentionally pay more to ensure they are supporting a 100% renewable energy supply, but in others, promises of savings were not met, and complex, predatory contracts were signed. Healy’s report said that low-income households and communities of color are disproportionately affected by higher bills under the program. In 2017 to 2018, low-income households lost an average of $166 over the course of the year.
“I’ve used 100% clean energy for years, and, since it’s totally optional for customers, I don’t understand why you would shut off this important option to consumers. If there are issues with some energy providers being bad actors, it’s best to regulate or deal with them and not totally close down the options to choose clean energy,” said James F. in Waltham, Mass.
“For those of us who are committed to buying 100% renewable energy, closing the market would be a HUGE step backwards for Massachusetts,” said Daniel J. of Beverly, Mass.
An online survey of 800 Massachusetts residents conducted on behalf of Clean Choice Energy found that residents overwhelmingly support the option to choose alternative suppliers. The survey found 83% of respondents want the freedom to choose clean energy for their homes, 79% want to be able to choose their supplier, and 73% would be interested in 100% clean energy contracts if given the option. Alternative energy suppliers are more popular than rooftop solar, with 74% of respondents voicing interest in the option, versus 50% of respondents saying they are interested in rooftop residential solar.
“Nearly 500,000 Massachusetts households already voted with their wallets, and most are accelerating the purchase of renewable energy – an option that Senate Bill 2842 (S. 2842) would take away,” said Christopher Ercoli, president and chief executive officer of the Retail Energy Advancement League. “When retail energy suppliers compete for your business, they have the incentive to offer better rates and service – not treat you like a captive ratepayer who pays whatever the utility mandates.”
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