MA DPU Slows Municipal Aggregation Programs for Dozens of Communities 

Sometimes the wheels of the government turn slowly. In Massachusetts, those wheels have been practically parked. Thirty-two communities have been waiting for the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to approve municipal aggregation programs for more than two years. 

In Massachusetts, about 160 communities already participate in municipal aggregation. This program allows communities to make more environmental-friendly energy supplier choices and can potentially provide savings on energy bills. Another major benefit of municipal aggregation programs is rate stabilization. Yet, with impending rate hikes, many communities haven’t been able to complete agreements because of the holdup with the DPU approvals. 

For many energy consumers, municipal aggregation can have a big impact on household budgeting. Of the current municipal aggregation programs in Massachusetts, many offer energy rates of less than one-third of what National Grid customers can expect to pay this winter. In addition, municipal aggregation can incorporate renewable energy options, which many communities throughout the state have sought. But the years-long DPU delays mean these programs are stalled.

Other states with similar programs, such as New Hampshire and Rhode Island, process CCA applications within 60 days. Patrick Roche, Director of Innovation, New England for Good Energy, said such municipal aggregation programs in Rhode Island are approved in a few months. In New Hampshire, regulators must approve plans within 60 days or it automatically gets approved, a process that could speed the Massachusetts program approvals. 

Some communities, such as Fitchburg, Scituate and Westwood recently received approvals for programs, but the DPU delay cost residents and businesses in those communities because lower rates available earlier had increased. 

The DPU has cited the pandemic and lengthy review process as reasons for the delay in getting municipal aggregations approved. An expedited process will be in place this fall, according to the DPU.

Not only has the DPU delays kept communities from potentially saving money and incorporating renewable energy, but cities and towns with existing programs may face difficulties revising and updating their programs. Any significant changes to the current municipal aggregation programs would require DPU approval, which means waiting. 

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