What is the Watertown Electricity Choice program?
Watertown Electricity Choice is a municipal electricity aggregation, a form of group electricity purchasing.
Typically, your electric utility, Eversource, provides two sets of services to you:
- They deliver your electricity (Massachusetts electric utilities are electricity delivery companies only). Delivery services appear on your bill as Delivery charges.
- They also supply your electricity, which means they buy electricity for you and pass the cost along to you. The cost of the electricity they buy for you appears on your bill as Supply charges.
But in Massachusetts, there are actually three ways to purchase your electricity:
- Your utility can do it for you, as just described. This is called Basic Service, and this is how most people buy their electricity.
- You can sign a contract with an electricity supplier yourself. You may have received offers in the mail or over the phone.
- Your municipal government can sign a contract with an electricity supplier on your behalf. This third option is municipal electricity aggregation, and this is what the Watertown Electricity Choice program is.
What is a municipal electricity aggregation?
A municipal electricity aggregation, such as the Watertown Electricity Choice program, is a group purchasing program for electricity.
In an aggregation, the Town uses the bulk purchasing power of the entire community to select an electricity supplier and to negotiate both the amount of renewable energy in the electricity and the price.
If you participate in the program, Eversource will continue to deliver your electricity, but the company chosen by the Town will appear on your Eversource bill as your electricity supplier. Also, the price that the Town negotiates will be used to calculate the Supply charges on your Eversource electric bill.
Watertown Electricity Choice will provide an alternative both to Eversource’s Basic Service pricing and to other electricity supply offers in the marketplace.
What will change with this program?
You will see two key changes as a result of participating in the Watertown Electricity Choice program:
- On the Supply portion of your Eversource electric bill, you will see the program supplier listed as your electricity supplier instead of Eversource
- The rate that you are charged for the Supply portion of your Eversource bill will change from the Basic Service rate to the program rate.
Additionally, the amount of renewable energy that you receive may change, depending on which program option you choose.
Otherwise, everything else will remain the same. You will continue to receive your bill from Eversource, you will continue to pay Eversource, and you will continue to call Eversource if your power goes out.
If you are eligible for any discounts from Eversource, those will be unaffected by your participation in this program.
Why is Watertown launching this program?
The primary goal of Watertown Electricity Choice is to increase the amount of renewable energy integrated into the electricity used by all Watertown electricity customers who are on Eversource’s Basic Service at a favorable and stable price.
Massachusetts state law already requires that a minimum amount of renewable energy be included in all the electricity sold in the state. The standard renewables level for Watertown Electricity Choice will include additional renewable energy over and above the state required minimum. The amount of renewable energy to be included in the standard program offering still needs to be determined.
In addition to the standard offering, the program will offer other options, such as the ability to choose 100% renewable energy and the ability to participate in the program but to receive no renewable energy beyond the minimum amount required by state law.
Why is a stable electricity supply price important?
Having a stable price for the supply part of your Eversource electricity bill can protect you from the seasonal price increases that occur when you have Eversource’s Basic Service. When Eversource is your electricity supplier, the price that is used to calculate the supply charges on your Eversource bill changes every 6 months for residential and other small customers, and it changes more frequently for larger commercial customers.
Having a stable price for the supply part of your Eversource electricity bill can also provide a predictable alternative to the variable prices offered by some commercial electricity supply offers. Some commercial electricity supply offers will provide a stable price for a few months, but then the price will vary monthly.
The Watertown Electricity Choice price will be fixed for longer than 6 months, and when it changes, the Town will announce the new price publicly before it takes effect.
What is the difference between Eversource and an electricity supplier?
Eversource is Watertown’s electric utility. They are your electricity delivery company. That means Eversource is responsible for delivering electricity to you, for maintaining the poles and wires, and for addressing power outages. Eversource charges you for these services on the Delivery portion of your electricity bill. Eversource does not generate electricity.
An electricity supplier is a company that buys electricity for you from electricity generators or from electricity brokers.
- For most electricity customers, their utility is also their electricity supplier. When they are your supplier (i.e., when you are on Eversource’s Basic Service), your electricity bill will indicate that is the case.
- You may also choose your own electricity supplier. If you do, the name of that company will appear on your Eversource bill as your electricity supplier, and the rate you negotiated with them will be used to calculate the Supply charges on your bill.
- In Watertown Electricity Choice, the Town will choose an electricity supplier on your behalf. The name of that company will appear on your Eversource bill as your electricity supplier, and the rate the Town has negotiated with them will be used to calculate the Supply charges on your bill.
What is the minimum amount of renewable energy in electricity required by state law?
The minimum amount increases 1% every year. For 2018, Massachusetts state law requires that 13% of your electricity comes from newer renewable energy projects in New England (MA Class I RECs). The percentage increases by 1% each year. Within that 13%, a minimum amount must be from solar projects (SRECs).
In addition, state law requires the inclusion of a minimum amount of renewable energy from older renewable energy projects in New England, as well as from some other energy sources that are considered highly efficient but not renewable.
For more information, visit the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources page on compliance information for the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
I received a call/visit/letter in the mail about my electric bill. Is it from the Town or this program?
The Watertown Electricity Choice program will send out one letter about the program just before program launch. That letter will include the Town seal. If the letter you received does not include the Town seal, it is not from the Town and does not represent the Town program.
Please note that if Eversource is your electricity supplier and you receive a letter about the program in the mail, you will be automatically enrolled in the program unless you choose to opt out. You do not need to provide additional information to participate. Any person or company who asks for additional information when they market their program to you does not represent the Watertown Electricity Choice program.
If you receive a call or a visit from someone who wants to discuss your electricity, keep these two things in mind:
- You should treat your Eversource account number like you treat your credit card information. Do not give it out unless you want to purchase your electricity from someone else.
- You do have the right to select an electricity supplier of your choice. If you choose to explore this option, please check the terms of the agreement carefully. Things to check for include: minimum bill amounts, contract length requirements, early termination fees, low introductory rates that change after the introductory period ends, and rates that vary.
Does this program replace Eversource as my electric utility?
No. Eversource will remain the electric utility for Watertown and will continue to deliver your electricity, and your primary relationship for electricity will remain with Eversource.
The Watertown Electricity Choice program will change the supplier on your Eversource bill, and it will change the rate that is used to calculate the Supply charges on your Eversource bill. But your bill will continue to come from Eversource, and Eversource will continue to be your electric utility.
What will my electricity supply price be through the program?
We do not yet know the prices for the different options in the program. The prices will be determined when the Town signs a contract with an electricity supplier. That will occur after the state regulatory review and approval process for Watertown Power Choice has been completed.
Will I know the program price and the price of each program option before I am enrolled?
Yes. If you are an Eversource Basic Service customer, you will receive a letter in the mail with program information, including pricing, before the program launches. The program website will also be updated to include pricing information, and the Town will make public presentations about the program before program launch.
Note that although at that point you will know the program pricing, you cannot know the Eversource Basic Service price beyond the 6-month period for which Eversource purchases Basic Service Supply.
How long will the program last?
The program itself will last as long as the contract for electricity supply that the Town enters into. The Town will evaluate the bids that it receives from electricity suppliers and will select the contract duration that provides the best value for electricity customers.
At this point, the duration of the initial electricity supply contract is not yet known.
Although the program will last for as long as the Town decides, you can leave the program with no fee at any time and go back to Eversource’s Basic Service.
How do I join the program?
Households and businesses on Eversource Basic Service will be automatically enrolled in the program at the standard level of renewable electricity that the Town chooses.
If you have your own contract with an electricity supplier at the time of program launch (in other words, if you are not on Eversource’s Basic Service), you will not be automatically enrolled in the program. However, you will be able to opt in to the program. Information about how to opt in will be made available closer to program launch.
Do I have to participate?
No. Participation is not required. There is no penalty for opting out. You may do so at any time. You may opt out of the program before being enrolled, and you may opt out any time after enrollment. If you opt out, the supply portion of your bill will remain on Eversource’s Basic Service rate. Information about how to opt out will be made available closer to program launch.
Before you decide whether or not to participate, you will know the price and renewable electricity content of each Watertown Electricity Choice program option, including the standard option.
I have already signed my own contract with an electricity supplier. Can I participate?
Yes. If you have already chosen an electricity supplier, you will not automatically be enrolled, but you can opt in to the program. Information about how to opt in will be made available closer to program launch.
Who do I call if the power goes out?
Call Eversource if your power goes out, as always. Eversource will continue to deliver your electricity and maintain the polls and wires.
Will I receive a second bill?
No. Eversource will continue to bill you for your electricity, and this is the only electricity bill you will receive as a participant in the program.
Will Eversource provide me with a lower quality of service because I participate in this program?
No. Eversource’s quality of service to you will be unaffected by your participation in the Watertown Electricity Choice program. Eversource does not profit from the supply charges on your electric bill. They make their profit from delivery charges. As a result, they have no preference whether they choose your supplier or Watertown does.
What if Eversource's price falls below the program price?
You are free to leave the program at any time and return to Eversource’s Basic Service.
It is likely that for some months, the Eversource price will fall below the price of the Watertown Electricity Choice program at the standard level of renewable electricity. This is because the Watertown Electricity Choice price will be fixed for the duration of the contract that the Town enters into while Eversource’s Basic Service prices change every 6 months for residential and small business customers, and every 3 months for large business customers.
The program cannot guarantee that it will beat Eversource’s Basic Service price at all times, or even the average Eversource price, at the standard level of renewable electricity. But the program goal is to beat the average of the changing Eversource prices, although there is no guarantee that it will do so.
Please note: If you do choose to opt out and then change your mind during the term of the same electricity supply contract, you are not guaranteed the program price. The electricity supplier has the right to charge you a market price.
I am currently eligible for the low-income rate from Eversource. Will this change?
No. If you are eligible for a low-income discount from Eversource, it will be unaffected by your participation in the program.
I have budget billing from Eversource. Will this change?
Yes. Budget billing is a service from Eversource in which your bill is the same amount every month, regardless of how much electricity you use. If you join the Watertown Electricity Choice program, budget billing will no longer apply to the Supply portion of your Eversource bill. If paying exactly the same amount every month is important to you, you should opt out of the program.
I have solar panels on my property. If I join the program, will I continue to receive net metering credits?
Yes. Net metering will work the same way if you participate in the program. Your net metering credits from your solar panels will continue to appear on your Eversource bill and will continue to be calculated based on Eversource’s Basic Service price, not the program price.
Is Watertown the only community in Massachusetts implementing this kind of program?
No. Municipal electricity aggregation has been building momentum across Massachusetts. Watertown will join more than 125 other Massachusetts communities that already have aggregations. Recently, these communities have been implementing “green” aggregations like the Watertown program, which increase the amount of renewable electricity in the community’s electricity supply beyond the minimum amount that Eversource is required by state law to purchase.