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 provides 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 Direct Energy listed as your electricity supplier instead of Eversource
- The rate that is used to calculate the Supply portion of your Eversource electricity bill will change from the Basic Service price to the Watertown Electricity Choice price.
Additionally, you will receive an addition 35% renewable electricity with the Standard Offering, over and above the 16% minimum required by state law in 2020. (Please note, if you choose the 100% Green option, you will receive 100% renewable electricity. If you choose the Basic option, you will receive no additional renewable electricity above the 16% minimum required by state law in 2020.).
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 community’s investment in clean electricity while providing Watertown electricity customers with a stable electricity price.
Massachusetts state law already requires that a minimum amount of renewable energy be purchased for all electricity sold in the state. However, Watertown Electricity Choice will purchase an additional 35% renewable energy over and above the state required minimum, for a total of 51% renewable electricity in 2020 and 53% in 2022.
In addition to purchasing more renewable electricity as a part of the standard offering, the program also provides two additional program options:
- 100% Green, which purchases renewable electricity to match 100% of your electricity use
- Basic, which provides the program benefits of price stability and consumer protections but purchases no additional renewable electricity 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 is fixed until December 2021. When the Town signs a new contract and the price changes, the Town will announce the new price publicly before it takes effect.
How do I join Watertown Electricitiy Choice?
All new residential and commercial electricity customers in Watertown that are on Everesource’s Basic Service – meaning they have not signed a private contract with an electricity supplier – will be automatically enrolled in Watertown Electricity Choice in the Standard offering.
Watertown electricity customers that have signed a private contract with an electricity supplier will not be automatically enrolled, but you may enroll in the program. Learn about enrolling.
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 Eversource is 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 price you negotiated with them will be used to calculate the Supply charges on your bill.
- In Watertown Electricity Choice, the Town chooses an electricity supplier on your behalf. Watertown has signed a contract with Direct Energy to supply electricity to the Town. Direct Energy will appear on your Eversource bill as your electricity supplier, and the price the Town has secured from 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 every year. For 2020, Massachusetts state law requires that 16% of your electricity comes from newer renewable energy projects in New England (MA Class I RECs).
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.
Why should I opt up to 100% Green to get 100% renewable electricity?
Choosing the 100% Green option and 100% renewable electricity this option means making the most significant contribution possible in the program to sustainability and to the New England economy.
Every time you pay your electric bill, you will make a strong investment in:
- Reducing Watertown’s greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the amount of renewable energy used to generate electricity. Electricity generated from renewable sources, such as the sun and wind, does not create the greenhouse gases that cause climate change and does not pollute the air.
- Encouraging the development of additional local renewable energy projects by creating additional demand for the electricity generated by those projects.
- Supporting local businesses and local jobs by buying electricity from New England-based projects.
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 you one letter about the program before you are enrolled. That letter will include the Town seal, the name Watertown Electricity Choice, and the name of the Town Manager, Michael Driscoll. If the mailing you received does not include these three items, 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 to Direct Energy, and it will change the price that is used to calculate the Supply charge portion of your Eversource electricity bill to the program price. 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?
Watertown Electricity Choice offers three options:
- Standard offering: 11.494 cents/kWh
- 100% Green: 12.718 cents/kWh
- Basic: 10.654 cents/kWh
The Standard Offering is the default program offering. You will be enrolled in the Standard Offering unless you request one of the other options.
Watertown’s electricity contract price will remain fixed until December 2021, while Eversource’s Basic Service rate for residential customers changes every six months. Future Eversource prices are not known. As a result, savings compared with Eversource’s Basic Service cannot be guaranteed. However, customers can return to Eversource’s Basic Service at any time with no fee.
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 your account is enrolled.
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 electricity supply.
How will I know if I am enrolled and which option I have?
If you are enrolled in Watertown Electricity Choice, your Eversource bill will show Direct Energy as your electricity supplier.
To check which program option you are enrolled in, look at the price that is used to calculate the supply charge portion of your bill. If you are enrolled in the 100% Green option, the price will be $0.1278/kWh (12.78 cents/kWh). If you are enrolled in the Standard Offering (51% renewable electricity), the price will be $0.11494/kWh (11.494 cents/kWh). If you are enrolled in the Basic option (minimum amount of renewable electricity required by the state), the price will be $0.10654/kWh (10.654 cents/kWh).
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 current contract with Direct Energy extends until December 2021. At that point, the Town can continue the program by signing a new electricity supply contract, or it can end the program and return all participants to Eversource’s Basic Service. The Town’s intention is to continue the program, but the Town will make an announcement about its decision either way at that time.
All program participants have the right to opt out of the program at any time with no fee or penalty.
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.
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.
Before enrolling, we recommend that you check the terms of your contract with your current electricity supplier. Many private contracts have minimum participation periods and charge early termination fees if you change to a new electricity supplier before the end of the minimum participation period.
If you wish to wait until the end of your current electricity supply contract to enroll, that is OK. You will receive the Watertown Electricity Choice price at the time you enroll.
Get more information about enrolling.
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 Watertown Electricity Choice.
My organization is tax exempt. How do I maintain its tax exempt status in this program?
Direct Energy is required to have tax exemption documentation on file for every electricity account that participates in Watertown Electricity Choice and has tax exempt status. Without that documentation on file, Direct Energy may be required to charge tax on the account. They cannot obtain that documentation from Eversource. They must obtain it from each customer directly.
Learn more about submitting your tax exemption documentation.
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 Watertown Electricity Choice. 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 Standard Offering in Watertown Electricity Choice. This is because the Watertown Electricity Choice price is fixed until December 2021 while Eversource’s Basic Service prices change every 6 months for residential and small business customers, and every 3 months for large business customers, and future prices are not known.
The program cannot guarantee that it will beat Eversource’s Basic Service price at all times, or even the average Eversource price. However, customers are free to opt out at any time with no fee or penalty.
Please note: If you do choose to opt out and then change your mind during the contract with Direct Energy, you are no longer 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 Watertown Electricity Choice, budget billing will no longer apply to the Supply portion of your Eversource bill, though it will continue to apply to the Delivery portion of your 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 140 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.