What is the Worcester Community Choice Aggregation?
The Worcester Community Choice Aggregation is a municipal electricity aggregation, a form of group electricity purchasing. If you participate in the program, National Grid will continue to deliver your electricity, but the company chosen by the City, Direct Energy, will appear on your National Grid bill as your electricity supplier. Also, the price that the City negotiates will be used to calculate the charges on your National Grid electricity bill. The Worcester Community Choice Aggregation provides an alternative both to National Grid’s Basic Service pricing and to other electricity supply offers in the marketplace.
What is a municipal electricity aggregation?
A municipal electricity aggregation, such as the Worcester Community Choice Aggregation, is a group purchasing program for electricity. Municipal Electric Aggregation was enabled by the Massachusetts Restructuring Act of 1997 (Chapter 164, Section 134), which allowed local municipal governments to aggregate the electric supply loads of the consumers within their boundaries in order to negotiate more favorable terms with a power supplier. To date, more than a third of Massachusetts municipalities have already launched their own aggregations. Worcester would be the largest community, by far, to do so in the state.
Typically, your electric utility (in Worcester, it is National Grid) 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 can 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 a competitive electricity supplier yourself. You may have received offers in the mail or over the phone in the past.
- Your municipal government can sign a contract with an electricity supplier on your behalf, using the mechanism of municipal electricity aggregation. Worcester’s aggregation is called Worcester Community Choice Aggregation. By law, municipal electricity aggregations all have an automatic enrollment model.
To learn more, visit the state’s Municipal Aggregation website.
What gives Worcester the authority to launch an aggregation?
Municipal electricity aggregation was enabled by the Massachusetts Restructuring Act of 1997 (Chapter 164, Section 134), which allows local municipal governments to aggregate the electricity supply loads of the electricity consumers within their geographic boundaries in order to negotiate more favorable terms with an electricity supplier.
Municipal aggregations are subject to oversight by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, and Worcester’s aggregation plan was subject to a regulatory review and approval process before the City was authorized to implement the program. (Learn more about Worcester’s implementation process.)
More than 40% of Massachusetts communities have already launched electricity aggregations.
Why is Worcester launching this program?
The primary goals of Worcester Community Choice Aggregation are to move Worcester toward sustainability goals while providing a City-vetted alternative to electricity supply offers in the marketplace with stable pricing and consumer protections. Through Worcester Community Choice, the City can integrate additional renewable energy into the City’s electricity supply above the state-required minimum.
Is Worcester the only community in Massachusetts implementing this kind of program?
No. Municipal electricity aggregation has been building momentum across Massachusetts. Worcester will join more than 140 other Massachusetts communities that already have aggregations. Recent aggregations started implementing “green” aggregations like the Worcester program, which increase the amount of renewable electricity in the community’s electricity supply beyond the minimum amount that electrical suppliers are required by state law to purchase.
What will change for me with this program?
You will see two key changes as a result of participating in the Worcester Community Choice Aggregation:
- On the Supply Services portion of your National Grid electricity bill, you will see Direct Energy, the aggregation program supplier, listed as your electricity supplier instead of National Grid
- The price used to calculate the Supply Services portion of your National Grid electricity bill will change from the Basic Service price to the program price.
Everything else will remain the same. You will continue to receive your bill from National Grid, you will continue to pay National Grid, and you will continue to call National Grid if your power goes out.
If you are eligible for any discounts from National Grid, those will be unaffected by your participation in this program.
Will former participants of National Grid's Smart Energy Solutions pilot program be able to participate in Worcester Community Choice?
Yes, former participants in the Smart Energy Solutions pilot will participate in Worcester Community Choice on the same terms, and at the same price, as other customers.
In the past, National Grid provided a special Basic Service price for Smart Energy Solutions pilot customers. Pilot customers received a price that varied according to the time of day (known as “variable” pricing) rather than a price that is the same in all hours of the day (known as “flat” pricing).
However, starting in January of 2019, pilot customers were returned to a flat Basic Service price. Assuming no change in the Smart Energy Solutions pilot, all aggregation participants (both former pilot customers and non-pilot customers) will receive a flat price.
If National Grid resumes variable pricing for the pilot, the City will work with National Grid to incorporate variable pricing into the Worcester Community Choice program.
I received a call/visit/letter in the mail about my electric bill. Is it from the City or this program?
The supplier chosen by the Worcester Community Choice Aggregation Program, Direct Energy, will send out one postcard and one letter for each current National Grid Basic Service customer about the program just before program launch. That letter will include the City seal. If the letter you received does not include the City seal, it is not from the City and does not represent the City program. If you want to confirm that this is legitimate communication, you can contact customer support with the City’s consultants.
Please note that if National Grid 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 (such as the account number on your electrical bill) to you does not represent the Worcester Community Choice Aggregation.
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 National Grid electricity 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, but are not limited to: 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 National Grid as my electric utility?
No. National Grid will remain the electric utility for Worcester and will continue to deliver your electricity, and your primary relationship for electricity will remain with National Grid.
The Worcester Community Choice Aggregation will change the supplier on your National Grid electricity bill, and it will change the rate that is used to calculate the supply services portion of your National Grid electricity bill. But your electricity bill will continue to come from National Grid, and National Grid will continue to be your electric utility.
How long will the program last?
The City’s current contract with Direct Energy runs through December 2022. At the end of this initial contract, the City will evaluate the bids for a new contract. Program participants are free to leave the program with no fee at any time and go back to National Grid’s Basic Service.
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 services portion of your electricity bill will remain on National Grid’s Basic Service rate.
How do I join the program?
Households and businesses on National Grid Basic Service will be automatically enrolled in the program.
If you have your own contract with an electricity supplier at the time of program launch (in other words, if you are not on National Grid’s Basic Service), you will not be automatically enrolled in the program. However, you can enroll in the program. Please be aware that your electricity supplier may charge early termination fees, so you should carefully review your current contract terms and conditions before making that decision.
Can I opt in after opting out?
Yes, however if you opt out of the program and want to rejoin during the same electricity supply contract, you will not be guaranteed the program price for the remainder of the current Aggregation contract.
Once/if the City signs a new contract, however, you will be enrolled at the newly negotiated aggregation price. Remember that you are free to leave the program at any time and return to National Grid’s Basic Service.
Will I receive a second electricity bill if I participate in Worcester Community Choice?
No. National Grid will continue to bill you for both electricity supply and delivery services, and this is the only electricity bill you will receive as a participant in the program.
Who do I call if the power goes out?
Call National Grid if your power goes out, as always. National Grid will continue to deliver your electricity and maintain the polls and wires, and will remain responsible for addressing power outages.
Will National Grid provide me with a lower quality of service because I participate in this program?
No. National Grid’s quality of service to you will be unaffected by your participation in the Worcester Community Choice Aggregation. National Grid 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 Worcester does.
I have solar panels on my property or participate in a community solar program. If I join the program, will I continue to receive net metering credits?
Yes. Net metering credits will work the same way if you participate in the program. Your credits will continue to appear on your National Grid bill and will continue to be calculated based on National Grid’s Basic Service price, not the program price.
How do I maintain my account's tax-exempt status if I participate in the program?
Tax exempt accounts that wish to maintain their tax exempt status in the Worcester Community Choice Electricity Aggregation program must submit tax exemption documentation to the program’s electricity supplier.
This means that tax exemption documentation must be submitted each time the program’s electricity supplier changes.
The program’s electricity supplier is required by the State of Massachusetts to have valid tax exemption documentation on hand for all tax exempt accounts.
You may have submitted tax exemption documentation to National Grid already, but National Grid does not share this documentation with the program’s electricity supplier. It is the customer’s responsibility to submit this documentation.
Please see the tax-exempt accounts page for information on where to send your documentation.
Aggregation program pricing
Will I know the program price and the price of each program option before I am enrolled?
Yes. If you are a National Grid Basic Service customer and eligible for automatic enrollment in the Worcester Community Choice Electricity Aggregation program, you will receive a letter in the mail with program information, including pricing, before you are enrolled.
Note that although at that point you will know the program pricing, you cannot know the National grid Basic Service price beyond the 6-month period for which National Grid purchases Basic Service Supply.
What will my electricity supply price be through the program?
The program offers two options. Your price will be determined by which option you are enrolled in.
- Worcester Standard Green: This is the default program offering. New program participants are automatically enrolled in Worcester Standard Green at a price of 11.442 ¢/kWh.
- Worcester 100% Green: Program participants have the option to choose 100% renewable electricity with Worcester 100% Green at a price of 14.031 ¢/kWh.
Why is a stable electricity supply price so important?
Having a stable price for the supply services portion of your National Grid electricity bill can protect you from the seasonal price increases that occur when you have National Grid’s Basic Service, meaning National Grid is your electricity supplier. The price that is used to calculate the supply services portion of your National Grid electricity bill changes every 6 months for residential and small business customers, and it changes more frequently for larger commercial customers.
Having a stable price for the supply services portion of your National Grid 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 Worcester Community Choice Aggregation price will be fixed until December 2022, When it changes, the City will announce the new price publicly before it takes effect. Aggregations seek to provide a price that is lower than or equal to the average National Grid Basic Service price over the course of the year. It must be noted, that savings cannot be guaranteed compared to National Grid’s Basic Service price, because future prices are unknown.
What if National Grid's price falls below the Worcester Community Choice price?
The Worcester Community Choice Aggregation price is fixed until December 2022. However, National Grid’s Basic Service prices change every 6 months for residential and small business customers, and every 3 months for medium and large business customers. As a result, it is likely that for some months, the National Grid price may fall below the price of the Worcester Community Choice Aggregation. The program cannot guarantee that it will beat National Grid’s Basic Service price at all times. The program aims to match or beat the average of the changing National Grid prices, although there is no guarantee that it will do so.
Remember that you are free to leave the program at any time and return to National Grid’s Basic Service. However, if you opt out of the program and want to rejoin during the same electricity supply contract, you will not be guaranteed the program price.
I am currently eligible for the low-income (R-2 rate) discount from National Grid. Will this change?
No. If you are eligible for a low-income discount from National Grid, it will be unaffected by your participation in the program. The total percent discount will still be calculated off of your entire bill, which will now be calculated using the new aggregation price for electricity supply portion of your bill.
I have budget billing from National Grid. Will this change?
No. Budget billing is a service from National Grid in which your bill is the same amount every month, regardless of how much electricity you use. If you join the Worcester Community Choice Electricity Aggregation program, budget billing will continue to apply.
Aggregation and electricity suppliers
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 enroll in the program. Please be aware that your electricity supplier may charge early termination fees, so you should carefully review your current contract terms and conditions before making that decision.
What is the difference between National Grid and an electricity supplier?
National Grid is Worcester’s electric utility. In Massachusetts, electric utilities are fundamentally electricity delivery companies. They do not generate electricity. That means National Grid is responsible for delivering electricity to you, for maintaining the poles and wires, and for addressing power outages. National Grid charges you for these services on the delivery portion of your electricity bill.
Electric utilities have geographic monopolies. We have no choice in determining our electric utility. Our electric utility is determined by where we live in Massachusetts.
An electricity supplier is a company that buys electricity for you from electricity generators or from electricity traders. The electricity supplier for the Worcester Community Choice Electricity Aggregation program is Direct Energy.
Buying electricity in Massachusetts
In addition to providing electricity delivery services, National Grid can also act as an electricity supplier and buy electricity on your behalf. Or you can buy your electricity from someone else. Massachusetts offers three options for buying electricity:
- For most electricity customers, their utility is also their electricity supplier. When they are your supplier (i.e., when you have National Grid’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 National Grid electricity bill as your electricity supplier, and the rate you negotiated with them will be used to calculate the supply services charges on your bill.
- With the Worcester Community Choice Aggregation, the City will choose an electricity supplier on your behalf. The name of that company will appear on your National Grid electricity bill as your electricity supplier, and the rate the City has negotiated with them will be used to calculate the supply services portion of your bill.
What is the minimum amount of renewable electricity required by Massachusetts state law?
The minimum amount increases every year. For 2019, Massachusetts state law requires that 14% of your electricity comes from newer renewable energy projects in New England (Massachusetts 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 (Massachusetts Class II RECs), as well as from some alternative 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.
What is the renewable energy mix?
For both the Worcester Standard Green offering and the Worcester 100% Green option, most of the renewable energy will likely come from wind energy sources in New England. Wind is a dominant renewable energy resource in New England in terms of its generation capacity.
I participate in National Grid's GreenUp program. What should I do?
If you participate in the National Grid’s GreenUp program and wish to continue participating, you should opt out of the Worcester Community Choice Electricity Aggregation program. If you do not opt out, your account will no longer be enrolled in National Grid’s GreenUp program, and you will start receiving renewable electricity via aggregation program instead (20% over the state-mandated minimum). Also, remember that through the aggregation program, you can also opt up to 100% New England renewable energy.