Board Votes Electricity Plan That Defaults to 100 Percent Renewables

The Bedford Select Board on Monday approved a new default option in the town’s community choice aggregation. Image:

The Bedford Select Board on Monday approved a new default option in the town’s community choice aggregation that is likely to mean most consumers will be using electricity generated entirely from renewable sources.

The number of Bedford households currently choosing 100 percent renewables is just 192, but that’s because it is not the default option. The current default position is 20 percent additional renewable energy over the state requirement, and 88 percent of households participate at that level.

The new configuration that reduces the number of options to three will go into effect after the renewal of the electricity contract on Dec. 1. However, the town’s energy broker, Good Energy, plans to issue bids later this month to try to secure rates well in advance.

“The volatility is at an all-time high,” Allison McNeill of Good Energy told the board. “We know we are looking at a price increase, but we want to lock something in and protect residents from the constant ups and downs.”

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Residents should anticipate a significant rate increase since they have been insulated from market changes during the current three-year contract. The Energy and Sustainability Committee said the increase could be as high as 40 percent.

Community choice aggregation, which began in August 2019, collectively purchases electricity from renewable sources. Billing and services such as outages and repairs continue to be handled by Eversource, but Bedford ratepayers don’t buy electricity from that utility unless they opt out of the aggregation.

About 4,400 households participate, and that has worked to their financial advantage because of the constant rates in the contracts. The Energy and Sustainability Committee reported savings of almost $10 million over the past five years.

Participants will be able to choose a basic rate that reflects a smaller percentage of renewables. The estimated differential between that rate and the default is about $7.50 per month. The Select Board also approved a third midpoint option. The current contract has four choices.

There’s a state requirement that a percentage of electricity be generated from renewables, and it increases every year, so Bedford’s default option adds to that minimum to achieve 100 percent.

“I like the idea of defaulting to 100 percent. It makes a good statement of where we stand,” said board Chair Shawn Hanegan.

The Bedford Mothers Out Front chapter has been advocating full use of renewables. Member Karen Willson presented a petition to the board on Monday.

“We must cut greenhouse gases as soon as possible to secure our children’s future,” she said. “We have a responsibility to care for others by reducing our carbon impact quickly.”

“Bedford’s community choice aggregation program purchases more than 12 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy per year, avoiding more than nine million pounds of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions,” the committee told the Select Board in a memorandum.

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