Electricity aggregation success extends beyond Newton

Programs in many cities show the approach works

THE METROPOLITAN AREA PLANNING COUNCIL applauds Newton for taking the next great leap in green aggregation (“Municipal electricity aggregation really works”), and we feel it is important to highlight the pioneering work of other municipalities in this space in recent years.

The Clean Energy Department at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council has been helping cities and towns green their aggregation programs since 2015. That year, we posed a critical question: could aggregation include more renewable energy in the electricity supply and source it from new, local New England renewables, all while retaining the potential to save consumers money compared to the utility’s basic service electricity supply?

We were not sure what answer we would receive, but Melrose and Dedham immediately accepted the challenge, enacting this novel concept the next year. Each added 5 percent renewables on top of the 11 percent already required by state law, an ambitious increase. As part of our program, and with the support of partners Good Energy and Green Energy Consumers Alliance, Arlington, Brookline, Somerville, Sudbury, and Winchester joined the program in 2017. At that time, Brookline was the first to take an even bigger bite at the apple, requiring an additional 25 percent renewables — more than doubling the state requirement.

Green municipal aggregation is a key tool in a municipality’s toolbox for impacting its community-wide greenhouse gas emissions. Including more renewable energy lowers the total greenhouse gas emissions for all residential and commercial participants. Importantly, it also provides a mechanism to foster the development of more renewable sources in our region.

The state requires everyone’s electricity to have a minimum amount of Massachusetts class I renewable energy – the same kind that green aggregations are buying. The state requirement increases by 1 percent each year, and it has helped fuel the growth of renewables in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast.

Across an entire aggregation, the additional 5 percent amounts to a massive extra purchase by the community. As more municipalities take this approach and the scale magnifies, it effectively increases the state’s minimum requirement for new renewable energy, helping to build even more renewable generation in our region than would have otherwise occurred.

The results have been heartening. In Melrose’s first 18 months, residents saved $200,000 compared to basic service, and Dedham, Arlington, Somerville, Sudbury, and Winchester are racking up similar savings. Even Brookline is on track to provide a net savings over its nearly three-year contract term: from January 2018 through at least June 2019, its rate will be below Eversource’s basic service.

Together, we, our municipalities, our partners, and beyond have changed the mainstream outlook on what municipal aggregation should be. Other communities, including Lexington, Acton, and Natick, worked independently of the planning council to adopt a green aggregation model, and new green aggregation programs just launched in Hamilton, Gloucester, and Stoneham, with others preparing for launch in Bedford, Medford, Millis, Rockland, and Waltham.

Our active programs have proved the concept that an aggregation can substantially increase the amount of new, local New England renewables within the electricity and still save consumers money; Brookline has shown you can go even farther by adding 25 percent. And now Newton has taken the next great step forward, adding 46 percent.

Meet the Author

Cameron Peterson

Director of clean energy, Metropolitan Area Planning Council
Meet the Author

Patrick Roche

Assistant director of clean energy, Metropolitan Area Planning Council
As Massachusetts class  I renewable energy certificate prices have declined, making them even more affordable, and recent climate science has highlighted the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the time is right for communities to follow Newton’s lead, and that of pioneers like Melrose, Dedham, and Brookline, to ratchet up the renewables in their electricity supply. We are thankful that Massachusetts municipalities have a strategy like green municipal aggregation at the ready, and we look forward to continuing to help launch new programs, spur current programs to think bigger, and build out the municipal greenhouse gas toolbox toward further innovation.

Cameron Peterson is director and Patrick Roche is assistant director of clean energy at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.